Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tuned into the Cosmos? General Motor’s critical transformation

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”[1] – Arthur Clarke

“As emerging algorithm-driven artificial intelligence (AI) continues to spread, will people be better off than they are today?” –Pew Research Center, “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans”

The Midwest was jerked out of its comfort zone recently, when General Motors’ announced  that over the course of 2019 it would be laying off 14K+ workers (15% of its workforce) and shuttering five plants, in Michigan and Ohio. The move wasn’t a total surprise: many analysts had anticipated something big—between Trump’s counter-productive tariffs regime raising prices on steel and other raw materials, not to mention items manufactured for export like automotive parts, and the fact that several GM sedan models were simply underperforming, something had to give. 

Unfortunately, the plan is now to produce more gas-guzzling SUVs, as opposed to remaining on track with the more energy efficient direction the company was pursuing under the Obama administration; if the age-old collusion between the auto and oil industries seems no weaker today than it’s ever been, it’s probably because market forces (i.e., consumer preferences) haven’t yet punished them sufficiently, and the political will to impose a carbon tax on their products simply doesn’t exist quite yet. 

In fact, the weeks-long “Yellow Vest” protests in France are a signal that taxing petroleum in a climate of radical wealth inequality simply pushes working people too far. Putting food on the table will always take precedence over long-term environmental goals—a story for another day, but a critical conundrum that we must solve.  

For his part, Trump came into office offering a sweetheart deal to unscrupulous car makers: huge corporate tax cuts and reduced emissions requirements. Once the tax cut was gobbled whole, workers and the environment were bound to pay the price for years to come. 

Besides, the minute GM announced the layoffs, its stock prices shot up, so what a nice end-of-year boost to the execs’ profit-linked bonuses! Cynicism is fully warranted, unfortunately. As often as this has happened over the years, however, we keep forgetting that the perverse callousness of issuing pink slips right before the end-of-year holidays is just the corporate way. End-of-year profit statements crowd out human decency every time. 

Even so, the company’s official statement on November 26th sounds reasonably tuned into our cosmic times, and it certainly acknowledges the massive changes so many trend-watchers are predicting these days:

“ ‘The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,’ said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. ‘We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.’”
That said, this post is about not just the GM layoffs, but also about the larger context that is driving the company’s plans. To explore both at once, we’ll examine a chart for the announcement GM made this past November 26th against its 2009 reorganization chart. The November announcement didn’t happen in a vacuum, of course—it’s been gestating since the company reorganized amidst a tough recession and an auto industry bail out, and during volatile political times that have ensued.

Barra took over the GM helm during tough times, in 2014.

The announcement was interestingly timed in regards to important technological trends and geopolitical cycles that are rapidly waning and re-launching anew in the coming 2 years.  We have an economy that shows signs of slowing down, at the same time a robotics/AI-powered “4th Industrial Revolution” gains tremendous steam. GM won’t be the only company that needs to switch gears and plan carefully for the road ahead. 

GM’s current plans tells us that 2019 will probably be a tumultuous year for labor issues in general; between GM’s situation, trade wars and a host of uncertainties that are giving investors serious heartburn, the Dow looks likely to finish out the year in very erratic, correction territory.

All of this gives less high-profile companies license to ride GM’s wake, of course, like compact cars driving behind an 18-wheeler. The “big guy” will give them cover for further layoffs. Do we expect labor unions to gain strength during this period? Not likely, and their inability to protect workers from the worst excesses of capitalism will be sorely felt as things develop.  

GM’s move reflects a more profound transition, however: according to the Brookings Institute:

“GM’s layoffs are not just incremental but existential, in that sense: They are about accelerating the staffing changes mandated by the company’s aggressive transition from analog to digital products and from gasoline to electric power. As such, the new layoffs (and associated future hirings) are likely an augury of much more disruption coming — in the auto sector, for sure, but also in firms all across the economy.
Central to GM’s announcement is, in our view, what we call the “digitalization of everything.”  By that, we mean that GM’s layoffs significantly reflect the talent and workforce strains associated with the diffusion of digital and electronic technologies into nearly every industry, business, and workplace in America.”

It seems that the American workforce simply doesn’t have the requisite skills for this transition, so what are the choices going forward? Since legal migration and work-related visas have been severely curtailed under the Trump administration, companies will likely depend upon American workers acquiring the needed skills, or they will have no choice but to automate as many jobs as possible with robots and AI-driven technologies so they can selectively train human workers for the remaining positions. 

The labor/capital dynamics at work will be predictable, pretty much as we’ve seen in past lay-offs and recessions in Detroit’s auto industry. Once the impact of lay-offs across vulnerable companies settles in, there’s always a deep pool of unemployed workers to choose from—and these workers don’t feel free to hold out for the wages their experience says they rightly deserve, whatever their unions may hope for. Besides, the power of labor unions—which has always been predicated upon companies having to shut down if workers simply walk out—may be fatally compromised as this new wave of automation takes hold.

Again, those who can’t or don’t want to co-exist and work with robots need not apply.
So yes, there’s a Damocles’ sword hanging over the auto industry’s human workforce if it doesn’t gain the skills it needs to participate in the coming “digitalization of everything.”  GM says many of its soon-to-be laid off workers will be allowed to apply for GM positions in its remaining American plants, but the company knows only a small fraction of laid-off workers ever actually moves to another state to take jobs that may be temporary at best. 

Besides, GM hasn’t divulged how many human laborers will be displaced by new technologies in their near- and long-term planning; they’ve only said that “The company is transforming its global workforce to ensure it has the right skill sets for today and the future, while driving efficiencies through the utilization of best in-class tools.”  So no commitments. 

To get a handle on what’s going on more narrowly with GM, let’s take a look at the chart for the November 26th announcement (read the company’s official statement here) against the company’s current radix chart. There are several charts to choose from for this corporation (its actual founding in 1908, its incorporation in 1916, etc.), but I’ve chosen to use its 2009 reorganization under the Obama auto industry “bailout” because that chart reflects the current incarnation of the company and it also captures the tumultuous times this reorganized entity was “born” into. 

Both charts in this biwheel are cast for noon—no precise timing is available.

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) GM reorganized, July 10, 2009, 12:00 p.m. (noon chart) DST, Detroit, MI; (outer wheel) General Motors layoff announcement, November 26, 2018, 12:00 pm. (noon chart) ST, Detroit, Michigan. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Interchart Grand Square: Announcement (ANN) Pluto/So. Node (midpoint, Capricorn) opposes Reorganized GM (GM) Mercury-Sun-ANN No. Node (Cancer); this axis squares ANN Uranus Rx-Eris (Aries)-GM Eris opposite ANN Venus (Libra). This complex configuration certainly reflects what GM has to say in the official announcement, entitled “General Motors Accelerates Transformation.”  Pluto, especially in combination with the nodal axis, speaks to developments that feel fated or that redefine the entity in profound ways. Pluto’s opposition to GM Sun speaks to an existential challenge, and to the need for a fundamental transformation.

There is also the possibility of secretive maneuvers and influence-seeking exchanges. Will GM Mercury-opposite ANN Pluto portend back-channel negotiations with the Trump administration? He has planets in late Cancer that are being opposed by transiting Pluto (chart not shown), so it’s hard to say, but we can surmise that Trump will want to look like the auto industry’s “savior” before election 2020, so anything goes.

The competitive impulse and the company’s need to balance that with a futuristic transformation is reflected in the cardinal intensity of this configuration, too—it’s particularly interesting that GM made this announcement while Uranus was in its retrograde “shadow period.” We can see this as a “holding” period when plans for change are pretty well “in the hopper” and people should be notified of what’s coming, but it’s just not time to launch.

Uranus will continue transiting retrograde until January, 2019 when it turns direct at 28°36’ Aries. Between then and February 16, 2019, it will retrace the steps it retrograded between 28°36’ and 29°17’ (its Rx position on announcement day, 11/26), so it’s likely that some “other shoe” related to all this will drop in the news around that time. If GM’s plans proceed without too many hitches, by the time Uranus re-enters Taurus in March, 2019 (its 1st ingress was in May 2018), most of the major plant closures will likely be underway.

GM uses the sterile term “unallocated” to describe plants it has decided to close—Uranus is thought to be a “humanitarian” energy in so far as it facilitates rebellions and revolutions, but its nature is also radically impersonal, and there is often unfortunate fall-out and backlashes when its energy predominates. Undoubtedly these layoffs will be no exception, even if they are framed as an essential step towards a larger transformation. Did CEO Mary Barra think that unleashing this announcement right before the end-of-year holidays like some kind of corporate Grinch was a good idea? Funny how she waited until after Black Friday—wouldn’t want to kill sales!

A shot of GM corporate headquarters in Detroit.
ANN Venus (Libra) trines GM Chiron-Jupiter-Neptune (all Rx inAquarius) and inconjoins GM Mars (Taurus); GM Mars opposes ANN Sun-Jupiter (Sagittarius); this axis squares GM Chiron-Jupiter-Neptune. The latter set of aspects here constitutes an out-of-sign T-square, of course—GM’s late Taurus Mars opposes early Sagittarius ANN Sun-Jupiter and both ends square Aquarius Jupiter-Neptune. Clearly, GM’s announcement was timed for maximum immediate benefit (Sun conjoins Jupiter), with Jupiter strong in Sagittarius, ready to stimulate the company’s growth (the Stock Market reacted accordingly that day).

The t-square involves Chiron-Jupiter-Neptune, which, combined with ANN Venus’s inconjunct to GM Mars (in Taurus, disposed by Venus) suggests that the dice have been rolled in this corporate gambit, but the company may find that its resources don’t always stretch around its aspirations, and most importantly, it may be subject to outside forces that confuse its direction and ultimately deliver a Chironic “wounding.”

Notice that GM’s reorganization took place during the 2003-10 Uranus-Neptune mutual reception from Pisces to Aquarius, during that mind-blowing first year (2009) of the Obama administration when so much was up for grabs due to the recession. The pressure applied here to the company’s Chiron-Jupiter-Neptune retrograde conjunction could further delay technology (Aquarius) rollouts—indeed, that may be what the ANN Chiron is signaling by transiting conjunct GM Uranus (Rx, Pisces).

Will the ANN Sun-Jupiter conjunction shield the company from hard times going forward? This conjunction also opposes GM Venus (widely conjunct GM Mars from Gemini), and Venus is also quincunx GM Pluto, widely conjoined ANN Saturn in Capricorn, so the jury is out. Massive structural transformations on the scale GM is planning rarely happen smoothly, so it won’t be surprising if this one has its resource and logistics problems.

The bottom line for all of the above aspects is that GM may want to work harder at gaining the public’s support—in Detroit, the fact that taxpayers (and their workforce) bailed them out of bankruptcy in 2009 and stuck with them through lean times is still a very fresh memory.

Chairman/CEO Mary Barra
 ANN Saturn-GM Pluto Rx (Capricorn) square GM Juno (Aries). As the one ultimately  responsible for carrying out the plans, Mary Barra is powerfully wedded to (Juno) GM’s successful roll-out of this announced “transformation.” She has undoubtedly met some serious challenges in the past year, as Saturn transited over GM Pluto; in fact, a noon chart for Dec. 24, 1961 (her birth date published on Wikipedia) shows that her Sun-Mercury conjunction in Capricorn would have been impacted at the same time. 

She’s proven her mettle repeatedly since the company reorganized, but with Election 2020 looming on the horizon, the timing for massively disruptive transformations could be problematic. Will she be targeted in Election 2020 for short-term political gain? Quite possibly. 

On that note, let’s take a quick look at Barra’s noon chart next to these two charts. Her “fit” for the position couldn’t be more obvious, but the challenges going forward are pretty clear, as well.

Triwheel #1: (inner wheel) Mary Barra, December 24, 1961, 12:00 p.m. ST (noon chart, no time available), Royal Oak, Michigan; (middle wheel) GM reorganized, July 10, 2009, 12:00 p.m. (noon chart) DST, Detroit, MI; (outer wheel) General Motors layoff announcement, November 26, 2018, 12:00 pm. (noon chart) ST, Detroit, Michigan. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

The most striking thing about Barra’s chart is the incredible array of points her chart features through the so-called “collective sector” of late Sagittarius through Pisces: her very being appears  calibrated for doing something on a grand scale, the bigger the organization the better. We can see her fit for leadership in the auto industry reflected here, certainly—especially with her Jupiter in technology-focused Aquarius and her Saturn dignified in late Capricorn. 

Reinforcing all this is her waxing Jupiter-Neptune square from Aquarius to Scorpio—she is capable of making Machiavellian, back-room dealings sound logical and transparent, which may be one key to her long, steady rise within the company. Her “membership” in the 1960s Uranus-Pluto (opposed to Chiron) generation drives her: it may have lent her the adaptive skills and commitment needed to persist as a strong woman in the mostly “man’s world” of engineering, not to mention auto industry leadership. Barra’s Uranus-Pluto conjunction is quite wide (the first exact hit was in 1965), but the Uranus-Chiron opposition is close and probably signals an “Achilles heel.”

The opportunity she realized in the reorganized GM (she was appointed VP of Global Human Resources in July 2009 and became CEO in January, 2014) is reflected in her Venus-Mars conjunction (Sagittarius) sextile to GM Chiron-Jupiter-Neptune (Aquarius). Because this is a noon chart, we won’t speculate on her MC figuring into all this, as appropriate as that feels. 

Charmed though her career path may appear, however, transits will be a major concern for Barra going forward, and we get a glimpse of what those will be from the ANN chart. Let’s consider some:

Transiting Saturn conjoins Transiting Pluto at 22°+ Capricorn) in January, 2020, widely conjunct Barra’s Saturn. Try to envision how these two planetary “heavies” will be transiting over her Capricorn points between now and the new cycle launch in January 2020: in the process, Saturn will do a retrograde turn between April 29th and September 18th, when it will station direct at Barra’s Mercury/Saturn (midpoint, Capricorn). The station Rx on April 29th will restimulate ANN Pluto, so it’s possible that Barra and GM will revisit the decisions announced on November 26th, 2018 at that time and make some adjustments; the pressure will certainly be on to do so between then and September, when Saturn turns direct. 

Taking Barra’s Mercury/Saturn midpoint into consideration, it’s possible that she will feel forced to compromise her professional judgment for the sake of press coverage, and we can expect that she will be called to account for her decisions and even her words (another appearance before Congress?). The more forthright she is with any such challenges, the better. 

So the new Saturn-Pluto cycle will launch in a key sector of Barra’s chart, close on the heels of her chart’s final dispositor Saturn, and within orb of her Saturn/Neptune midpoint. Not to be overlooked here, of course, is that Barra will be experiencing her 2nd Saturn return during this period as well—a time for revisiting one’s life path and regrouping from the perspective of an older, hopefully wiser heart and mind. A Pluto-infused Saturn return could be particularly intense, with a heavy focus on responsibility and perhaps even guilt. This fits, unfortunately, with the possibility that she may fall victim to all kinds of vicious political torment in 2020. Whether this means the end of her long, solid career with GM will remain to be seen.

Pressure from the White House has been intense after GM announced layoffs.
A side note here is relevant: as we saw in Biwheel #1, GM’s Mercury-Sun conjunction (Cancer) was opposed by ANN Pluto at that time, and that heavy pressure will continue as long as Pluto remains within orb (after the Saturn-Pluto cycle launches in January 2020). The company will be reinvented, one way or another—in all fairness, its announced plan is probably a far more constructive way to accomplish this than trying to play along with Trump’s tariffs and trade wars would be. Left to those whims, not to mention political pressure, the outcome could be far worse. Trump likes to pick winners and losers, and for the sake of its remaining workforce, GM really needs to shore up its defenses against this tendency. 

Transiting Jupiter should lighten Barra’s (and GM’s) path ahead to some extent. It’s important to remember that a unique Jupiter-Saturn cycle in air sign Aquarius is only two years away (almost to the day) as I write this. In the process of closing out the waning 2000 Taurus cycle, the earth element will weigh heavily in Capricorn, and Barra will be feeling that weight in the coming two years of transits. Despite Jupiter’s innate optimism and lightness, it doesn’t function as well in Saturn-ruled Capricorn, so when it approaches GM’s Pluto and Barra’s Sun (Capricorn) next year about this time, we can expect a power shift of some kind. 

Barra should survive this passage (Jupiter’s not likely to give her the boot), but some change (or at least an updated announcement) is likely. This is reinforced by two factors: one, the new Jupiter-Saturn cycle will launch conjunct GM No. Node (!) and two, transiting Uranus Rx will trine GM’s Pluto and Barra’s Sun-Mercury (all Capricorn) from Taurus at that time. 

Finances could be a factor between now and the launch of the new 2020 cycles: with Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto all influencing Barra’s career and the shape GM will take after this transformation shakes out, major responsibilities and debts could come due, and we have been seeing signs of an economic downturn, if not a recession looming. No doubt the 2008-9 auto industry bailout will come back to haunt GM and Barra, by association—even though the company recovered strongly and repaid the government loans it received early on, taxpayers never did recoup $10.6 billion in stock purchases. This leaves the company vulnerable to political targeting.  

And, as any Michigander knows, when Wall Street sneezes, the auto industry catches pneumonia—will a downturn or recession be the most supportive environment for the aggressive transformation Barra and GM have in mind?

What works for GM will likely clash with 2020 political agendas.
If it seems like we’ve veered off into a focus on GM’s transits and lost track of Barra’s, this goes back to how closely “wedded” she has been her entire professional life with this corporation—she will experience the upcoming transits from both the personal and professional perspectives. 

Unfortunately, her natal Juno conjoins GM Uranus Rx in Pisces, a conjunction that was 
further conjoined by ANN Chiron. This signals that her fate is tightly tied into the company’s fate. This close overlap between Barra’s personal and professional/collective lives will probably influence how she processes her 2nd Saturn return: perhaps she will even start feeling that it’s time to explore who she is apart from the company.

Uranus transits. Some of this was mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating. In the ANN chart, Uranus (Aries) trined Barra’s Venus-Mars (Sagittarius), catching her Sun in the process (out-of-sign trine). This latter aspect will morph into a more supportive, in-sign trine that includes her Sun and Mercury once Uranus returns to Taurus in March, 2019. As positive as a trine can be, however, this particular one can signal political/leadership changes that either work to Barra’s advantage or don’t. 

In so far as what happens in D.C. impacts GM’s plans at all, the political climate next year is bound to be different, but the inevitable strains between a Democratic-led House and a Republican Senate and White House will make for volatile times. Investing in the future (Uranus), much less making clear-minded decisions, will require nerves of steel—perhaps the stability of Taurus will help Barra and GM stay the course.   

Neptune transits. The good news here is that aside from the generational Neptune transiting opposition to natal Pluto (Virgo) and its trine to natal Neptune (Scorpio) in Barra’s chart, Neptune appears to be a fairly neutral player during the upcoming season of transits and new cycles. This doesn’t mean it won’t wield its special kind of influence from behind the scenes, but neither GM nor Barra seem particularly vulnerable. 

The more Barra frames everything she does in a fact-based light, the better, although she may want to sharpen and humanize GM’s public relations messages, along with her own. Election cycles tend to pose difficulties for strong women—they’re easy targets on social media, etc.—so a small dash of Neptunian charm and compassion wouldn’t hurt. 

Pluto transits. We’ve already covered Pluto in some detail, but it bears repeating that this geopolitical heavy’s transit into conjunction with her natal Saturn will only deepen the intensity of the 2020 Saturn-Pluto cycle launching in that same sector of her chart. Authority, responsibility, and the massive task of restructuring a major corporation for the coming “digitalization of everything” will be hot issues for her (and the company). 

Barra may feel herself to be under siege, in fact, as every stakeholder in this restructuring process will want its due, and there will never be enough good news to go around. Needless to say, separating her personal and professional lives will be daunting, but essential for her own effectiveness. 

Final thoughts

Navigating volatile geopolitical times is just part of the job description for global corporations, yet the times we’re facing now are uniquely risky and challenging. I am particularly interested these days in teasing out the personal dimensions of these challenges and understanding how the personal and collective levels interact. In the case of CEO Mary Barra and the reorganized General Motors, those two dimensions seem especially interwoven and mutually reinforcing. She and the company will likely thrive or run aground, together. 

With other situations we see in politics and stories in the news, however, the personal and the collective seem to be like ships about to collide head on in a turbulent sea. This is where we seem to be as a society with the issue of climate change, for instance: on a collision course with the facts, for the sake of maintaining a status quo that is crumbling before our eyes, anyway. 

Change is not coming; it’s here, and it’s the only constant we can count on. Despite my own misgivings with the labor and economic disruptions, not to mention the huge backward step GM has taken with regard to producing energy efficient vehicles, I will give GM and Barra credit for attempting to work with change, as opposed to working against it. Here’s one truism we can count on, though: companies respond to consumer demands, so maybe we all have a role to play in how the auto industry transforms itself.  

Let’s see where they go from here!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2018. All rights reserved. 

[1]cited in Brynjolfsson, Erik. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition, p. 13.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Taking flight: Hail and farewell to our 41st President, George H.W. Bush

“The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.” –Mary Oliver

“To us, he was close to perfect…”

America—and maybe the world—desperately needed to take a deep pause today and allow one of the most solemn occasions a nation ever has to deal with sink in really well. We’ve buried many former presidents in our nearly three centuries as a nation, of course—not to mention a few sitting presidents—but somehow today’s state funeral for President George H.W. Bush felt different. It felt more critical for the greater good of this nation that we get this right. 

It felt critical that we honor this life-long public servant who earned our respect, rather than demanded it—even if we disagreed with some of his policies and actions in office. That we reflect on what Bush 41’s example as both family man and public servant means in today’s mean and fractured world. 

As so many have commented upon, the contrasts with today’s Oval Office occupant are impossible to miss, but as we’ll also see, both men share interesting astrological parallels. 

IMHO, we need to ponder these parallels right along with the differences because they speak to the all-important topic of character. Building the strength and integrity of one’s character used to be an essential challenge that would-be leaders embraced. Is this the case any longer? Are they more likely to build their “Linked-In” profiles, add a couple degrees to their names, build their stock portfolios?

In fact, building character in the “Greatest Generation” tradition is still an aspiration for many: the better question might be whether society and public institutions support those goals, or whether gaining “success” has become somehow severed from building character.  

Entire volumes have been written about what building character “means,” but astrologically it boils down to how we navigate and internalize the lessons of Saturn. Saturn, of course, applies its special brand of pressure to every other point in our chart over the course of each Saturn cycle we experience, so it’s a gradual, developmental process that reaches into every corner of our being. Its energies also work with other outer planets to structure the society around us and to create that environment that either supports strong character-building or doesn’t. 

The personal and the collective dimensions of life “inter-are,” as Buddhism might put it. 

Saturn’s lessons may not feel very helpful as we’re experiencing them, but over time (Saturn rules the passage of time) we develop inner grit, resolve and purpose if we surrender to, or at least cooperate with the process. If we choose to go above and beyond, to willingly deepen our relationship with Saturn’s agenda for us, we reap the benefits of integrity (our word is our bond), authenticity and a healthy, but humble self-respect that is founded on our respect for others and the larger context of our lives. 

Simply put, how we use the planetary energies we’re endowed with at birth is a matter of choices made and unfolded over measured stretches of time, and there’s always a spectrum of low to high roads available. 

The astrology

Full disclosure here—during his term in office, I never really appreciated the Bush 41 presidency, and I still have many reservations about some policies and methods his administration brought to bear. Election 1988 left a lot to be desired: the Bush camp put out the infamous “Willie Norton” ad that lent a racially-charged tone to the campaign. Thankfully, Bush reportedly regretted this choice later, but it helped him win the presidency.   

There were other dirty tricks pulled on would-be opponents during that campaign—the setting up of Democratic front-runner Gary Hart for a fall was a prime example that’s recently resurfaced in film form—but I digress.

All of that didn’t inspire trust for me—Bush was a former CIA head and an oil magnate, and both fields are shy on scruples. As we’ll see, he was astrologically-suited for hardball (and deceptive) tactics, but he did come at the presidency with an uncommonly kind and affable demeanor, and this dispelled many misgivings. Even so, the First Gulf War felt like a troubling and reckless excursion; in retrospect, it looks like a walk in the park, compared to the horrors we’ve gotten into since.  

Born in 1924 and a naval aviator from a young age (Pearl Harbor was attacked just months before his 18th birthday), he was a man who lived the essential history that we so cavalierly forget these days, and he understood the incredible value of our international alliances. He helped reunify Germany after the Berlin Wall crumbled and demanded that Germany remain with the western alliance going forward; he protected Poland’s border in the process and he helped negotiate the end of the Cold War and the dispersion of the Soviet Union. 

The handshake that ended the Cold War in 1989
Could Bush have foreseen that Russia would fall back into its present questionable ways? He built an alliance with Mikail Gorbachev that amazed the world at the time and allowed former Soviet satellite nations to declare their independence, so perhaps he did the best anyone could have.  

Bush also championed the Clean Air Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, despite the GOP’s fundamental aversion to regulations. But he was a pragmatic moderate who pursued friendships on both sides of the partisan aisle and even listened to both sides—a strategy that perhaps made him a one-term president. Bowing to the necessity of a tax hike in order to cut overall government spending flew in the face of his ill-fated “read my lips, no new taxes” promise, but to my mind, compromising as he did further ennobled his character. 

The fact that he became good friends with Bill Clinton, the man who defeated him in 1992, says even more.   

All of this is just scratching the surface of Bush’s career, of course, but whatever one’s political leanings are, it’s hard to dispute that H.W. Bush led with dignity and grace—just don’t expect him to eat broccoli!

So let’s consider this man of substance and character through the lens of his natal chart.

Chart #1: George H.W. Bush, June 12, 1924, 10:30 a.m. DST, Milton, MA. Rodden rating B. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. 

Air Grand Trine: Sun (Gemini) trines Moon-Saturn (Libra) trines Mars-So. Node (Aquarius). This great circuit of airy energy might explain why comedian Dana Carvey—who poked fun at George H.W. Bush with his impersonations—says that his key to capturing Bush’s character was to think about the kind, grandfatherly Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”), trying to impersonate John Wayne (Mars?)! Carvey enjoyed a long friendship and many light moments with Bush—a testament to the statesman’s lively, but down-to-earth sense of humor (along with the airy trine itself, his elevated Taurus Mercury disposes his Gemini Sun). 

Carvey’s observations might actually tell us something important about Bush: Gemini Sun individuals often seem to have “dual” characters, and Bush is no exception. When Bush accepted the GOP’s nomination in 1988, he famously called for a “kinder, gentler nation,” but it wasn’t just words (Gemini Sun): many of his later actions (Libra Moon-Saturn and Aquarius Mars) demonstrated that he meant it. On the other hand, he was a lifetime member of the NRA and a former CIA head—quite a balancing act if you can pull it off! Relationships seemed to be the glue that held both sides of his nature together: he was a prolific letter writer (Gemini) and a personable speaker. 

Bush appreciated and ingratiated himself with members of the media, as well, like Hardball host Chris Matthews; a dash of Libra civility never hurts. Civility and respect were a quiet strength and discipline (Moon-Saturn) that set him so far apart from today’s politicians. He was known for not using the first person pronoun—something that became a comedic focus for Dana Carvey, in fact—but Bush’s habit of submerging the “I” reportedly went back to his mother insisting (Moon-Saturn) that he not get too “full of himself.” 

One reporter pointed out that despite his civil demeanor, Bush was absolutely an ambitious politician, and that losing his bid for a second term in Election 1992 to Bill Clinton was a huge blow to him. Looking back, it’s clear that the world was fundamentally changing at that juncture, with the 1821 Uranus-Neptune cycle ending and a new one beginning at 19+Capricorn in February, 1993. 

This cycle ending was transpiring opposite Bush’s Venus-Pluto (Cancer), and although this looming transit may have actually helped him achieve some important geopolitical goals (like the end of the Cold War without a shot fired), American voters were more concerned about domestic and economic issues at the time. Scorpio Pluto was squaring his Aquarius Mars and the nation’s Sibly Moon (Aquarius) as well; his power was simply blocked by forces beyond his control. 

Thankfully, Bush chose to respond graciously and generously to the loss, and he gained an important friendship in the process. Would son, George W. have been elected in 2000 if his dad had served another term? Hard to say. 

As a Naval aviator during WWII

A grand trine often allows one to take a lot of cosmic gifts for granted, and we can probably assume that many things in life did come pretty easily for Bush. He was born into a very wealthy, prominent East Coast family, after all, but it’s probably also true that his Moon-Saturn conjunction (fairly wide, with Saturn Rx) helped him to empathize with others’ struggles and to practice restraint—the “hard way,” as Saturn favors. He was nearly killed a couple times during his military service—how appropriate with all his airy energy that he ended up being an aviator!—and he and wife Barbara lost their first daughter Robin to leukemia at an early age. 

Robin’s death apparently inspired his support for the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. There were other painful lessons, to be sure, with this Moon-Saturn, especially as both are disposed by Cancer Venus conjunct Pluto. Considering this connection, it’s interesting that he spent several months in a submarine after being rescued from his downed aircraft in the Pacific during WWII—certainly says Venus-Pluto in sheltering Cancer to me! 

In fact, Bush’s combination of potent “feminine” points (Moon, Venus) with the geopolitical heavies Saturn and Pluto may also explain an image problem he had during his election campaigns –basically being labeled a “wimp” by certain elements in the media, which was a very unfair characterization to say the least, given his career to that point. It’s hard to miss that he was heavily influenced by strong women, however: his mother, certainly, but it may also explain why his 73-year marriage to Barbara Bush was so important to his career in public service. She does appear to have been a loving, but equally structuring, no-nonsense influence in his life, and he certainly benefitted from her strength. 

Especially in air signs, grand trines can be unfocused and “flighty” (ouch!)—a strong partnership was probably essential for him to corral his energies and live out his potential. Thankfully, he never subscribed to the idea that strength, human decency and civility are incompatible. 

Grand Air-Fire Sextile: Chiron-Ceres (Aries) sextiles Sun (Gemini) sextiles Neptune-No. Node-ASC (Leo) sextiles Saturn (Rx, Libra) sextiles Part-of-Fortune (Sagittarius) sextiles Mars-So.-Node-DSC (Aquarius) sextiles Chiron-Ceres (Aries). This complex configuration forms an incredible six-sided figure around this chart, and even though the Part-of-Fortune forms one point of this figure, it seems very relevant here. The figure lends structure and coherence to an amazingly lively interplay between the planets and points it contains. At first glance, it reminds me of the “thousand points of light” theme that Bush promoted during his time in office, attempting to stimulate volunteerism and public service. 

Soaring rhetoric from a president with a light touch.

Because this configuration is so rare, it’s worth an extended explanation by aspects expert, Bil Tierney:

“With these energizing, out-going elements represented [air and fire], the tendency to instigate stimulating activities with burning enthusiasm, optimism and vibrant self-expression is quite strong. However, the staying power and persistence to follow thru with impulses is weakened…the individual is not as inclined to be methodical, systematic, or long-planning in his efforts. Instead, he is spontaneous in his self-expression and thrives on the momentum of the here-and-now…As he is apt to ignore or low-key his own limitations, he may energize himself to do the impossible at times…As this person is usually very extroverted, animated, and mentally stimulating, he tends to attract more social attention of a positive nature than most. People are likely to feel enlivened in his presence.”[1]
This long description seems to accord with so much of what was said about Bush during this past week. “Energizing himself to do the impossible” certainly expresses the potential of his Aquarius Mars at the DSC; this Mars would definitely rise to challenges, and it’s uniquely suited to his military background. The fact that Mars opposes Neptune-No. Node-ASC (especially with Pisces Uranus disposing his Aquarius points) reflects that he was capable of passive aggressive techniques such as misinformation and disinformation (the Willie Horton and Gary Hart incidents, for example). This may explain why he found himself in the CIA, known for its use of such tactics. 

We’ve heard all week about Bush’s charming wit, his affability and outgoing nature—this fixed opposition hugging his chart horizon also suggests that he made a habit of acting on his ideals—yet, with Neptune rising, there were bound to be some “mysteries” about his nature. 

Another key point in this Grand Sextile is the Chiron-Ceres 8th house conjunction in Aries. Demetra George and Douglas Bloch have some interesting thoughts on Ceres in this fiery sign:

“Ceres in Aries people identify nurturance with autonomy and being granted independence. In turn, the Ceres in Aries individual nurtures others through promoting their self-determination and self-sufficiency.”[2]
This need for autonomy (and to promote others’ autonomy) suffers some Chironic wounds here, so we can probably assume that Bush experienced some difficulties around inheritance (8th house) and establishing himself as an independent entity. This wouldn’t be surprising in a powerful, political family (his father, Prescott Bush, was also a politician); perhaps one more reason Bush enlisted in the Navy so young to begin making his own name.

Father and son in recent days.

Eventually, George H.W. had to decide whether to hover over his son, George W. when he became president in 2000 and faced the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Pluto and Chiron were transiting over H.W.’s natal Jupiter (Sagittarius) during that period, and with Jupiter ruling his 5th house of progeny, the father-son issues could have been intense.  

In retrospect, some prominent figures wish that H.W. would have done more to rein in the Neo-con influences (like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) on his president son during the run up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. Instead, H.W. seems to have supported W’s decision to invade, allowing his son to be autonomous and make his own mistakes; according to some reports, W rarely asked for his dad’s advice and it wasn’t much volunteered. 

Though it resulted in the demise of Saddam Hussein—importantly, the Iraqi leader that had once threatened H.W. after having his forces driven out of Kuwait—the motives for the later 2003 invasion were never entirely clear, and too many have suffered the consequences. Did either man have regrets later? We can only wonder if this is one thing George W. had in mind when he eulogized his father so movingly. 

A difficult moment in a very moving eulogy.

T-Square: Jupiter (Sagittarius) widely opposes Sun (Gemini); this axis squares Pallas-Uranus (Pisces). Jupiter is dignified in this position and in Bush’s 4th house of heritage, it’s well-placed to reflect his prominent, ambitious political family. The wide conjunction with his Part-of-Fortune in that same house can be considered one hallmark of the dynasty he inherited and nurtured. 

Distinguishing himself (Sun) apart from that heritage was probably always a challenge, given this tense configuration, but the drive he seemed to have for reaching out to others paid off very well over time. Here’s how Demetra George and Douglas Bloch characterize the political thrust of a Pisces Pallas

“Politically, Pallas Athene in Pisces can be a proponent of nonviolent resistance: turning the other cheek or refusing to fight. She is also the enlightened warrior, the bodhisattva, and the martyr. The wisdom of Pallas in Pisces is the wisdom of compassion—the recognition of the universal suffering and desire for happiness that permeates humanity.”[3]  
We can appreciate the tension at work in Bush’s mind over the issue of enemies here—his Uranus-Pallas conjunction is placed in the 7th house and is stressed by Bush’s intense drive to achieve personal goals and promote his family’s reputation (10th-4th opposition).  Would he have simply looked the other way about Saddam Hussein’s threats for the sake of the perceived greater good of a stable relationship with the Middle East? It appears that is how he left it, but son George W. had no such compassionate “martyr” impulse (his Pallas is in early Capricorn), and the circumstances provided a pretext for aggressive action. 

The Sun-to Uranus-Pallas square spanning Bush’s 10th and 7th was, of course, prone to unpleasant surprisesit’s not surprising that he began his career in war time and that he ended it on the cusp of another series of conflicts, this time with players in the Middle East, a region of the world in which he had built important business alliances during his time as an oil executive

This may also speak to his deep conviction upon becoming president that a “new world order” was essential. Intense mutable squares can certainly stimulate a desire for order and rational engagement (Gemini and Uranus, as ruler of Aquarius).  Bush deployed his diplomatic skills (Libra Moon-Saturn) towards this cause, yet diplomacy didn’t always work to herd the geopolitical “cats”—these Libra points fell quincunx his Pisces Uranus, ruling his 7th

Bush in a touching recent moment with Mikail Gorbachev.

Critical choices, contrasts and parallels

This will be a very brief consideration of a topic that could expand to take up an entire volume: what, oh what has gone so wrong over the past couple decades with American leadership? 

We’ve been hearing commentators lament that the “Greatest Generation” is dying out and leaving us bereft of principled leadership—a development that is hard to deny, when we look at our current administration. Many are mourning the loss of traditional Republican values, in the wake of Donald Trump’s tortured make-over of the party. The party has morphed from supporting a “kinder, gentler nation” driven by “compassionate conservatism” to something approximating a mob organization, where fealty to the “Don” is everything (pun intended!). 

Bush made lifelong friends in the course of his foreign policy accomplishments (see pic above with former Soviet leader, Mikail Gorbachev); Trump is shredding America's alliances and friends as quickly as he can.

So what better way to explore the deep contrasts between these two types of leadership than to set the charts of George H.W. Bush and Donald J. Trump against each other? Trouble is…we’re going to stumble upon some uncanny parallels, as well!

Please note that to avoid cumbersome, tangled verb tenses, I will use the present tense to speak about the details of both charts together, despite Bush’s passing. His chart—and his memory—are still quite present!

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) George H.W. Bush, June 12, 1924, 10:30 a.m. DST, Milton, MA. Rodden rating B; (outer wheel) Donald J. Trump, June 14, 1946, 10:54 a.m. DST, Jamaica, New York. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.  

Trump Sun-No. Node-Uranus conjoin Bush Sun (all Gemini); Trump Moon-So. Node conjoins Bush Jupiter-Part-of-Fortune (Sagittarius); this axis squares Bush Uranus-Pallas (Pisces). These amazing convergences speak to the aspirations of both men, and not surprisingly, Uranus plays a significant role for each one. Trump’s Uranus seems more internalized, pointing  to his preference for managing through chaos; chances are it flags a chaotic cognitive style, as well. Some analysts have mused out loud about the state of his mental health…they could have been tapping into this Gemini gathering of his.

We discussed Bush’s Sun-Uranus square earlier: if he experienced any chaotic mental processing or anxieties, he appears to have been able to project those out onto the world at large, which he felt needed a new, more rational “order.” Doing this became the focus of his ambitions, which he pursued in a traditional (East Coast), orderly way: first the military and marriage, then Yale, then move the family to Texas to open an oil business and make his fortune, then enter politics. The rest is history, as they say! 

Despite some parallels with being born to a wealthy East Coast family, Trump was not born into a patrician Yale family like Bush was. He was the son of a 1st generation immigrant mother, Mary Anne McLeod, and a 2nd generation immigrant father, Frederick Trump. In fact, it’s been said that Donald always resented the East Coast “elites”—that might be what is signaled here, with his striving Moon conjunct Bush’s Part-of-Fortune (Sagittarius). As we can see with Bush’s life, however, the Ivy Leaguers cultivated an ethos of public service that seems like an anachronism today.

The Honor Guard at G.W.H. Bush's National Cathedral funeral.

The contrast between the approaches these two took to building their careers reminds me of what New York Times columnist David Brooks calls “resume virtues” vs. “eulogy virtues,” or “Adam I” v. “Adam II.” In his book, The Road to Character, Brooks claims that “Adam I” is driven to gain “external validation,” while “Adam II” is driven by the desire to embody higher virtues, to be responsible citizens, to be of service and to be a generally “good person.” A summary of Brooks's book says:

“These internal drives are often in conflict in our lives. According to Brooks they have different logics: Adam I embodies economic rationality and Adam II exemplifies the logic of morality.”[4]
Gemini individuals often wear humanity’s inherent duality on their shirtsleeves, but these two men clearly made choices in their lives about which end of the Adam I-II continuum they wanted to occupy. 

Trump Mars-ASC conjoins Bush Neptune-No.Node-ASC (all Leo) and opposes Bush Mars-DSC (Aquarius). This is another incredible convergence that, among other things, explains why Trump would choose to mock Bush’s “thousand points of light” campaign in his rallies—Mars can only nibble at Neptune’s heels with ridicule; it can’t out-do the ideals at work. Indeed, Trump approaches most heroic figures in this same dismissive way: it’s his dubious (and frankly, disgusting) super-power. Yet, Bush never sank to Trump’s level, but bided his time to have his final “say” from beyond, by extending the invitation to attend his funeral. 

George W. Bush greets the Obamas and carries on a cough drop tradition.
What was Trump thinking, sitting there while the entire nation mourned the loss of all the great qualities that Bush represents? What was he thinking when George W. Bush leaned right over him to shake hands with Obama and to hand Michelle Obama a cough drop? Not so subtle, was it?
These opposite styles of action (one self-oriented in Leo, one society-oriented in Aquarius) speak to how these two relate to the American people, as well. 

Bush’s Mars was more in tune with the aspirations of our Aquarius Sibly Moon—despite his commitment to lower government spending, “We the People” meant something more than a tax base. No one could forget that he was a Republican, but he didn’t rub our faces in it, either. There was a palpable feeling that he had our backs, even if we didn’t agree with his policies or plans. 

With his Mars opposite Sibly Moon, Trump knows how to dominate with his bombastic personality, he knows how to tear others down for the sake of climbing over them, and he certainly knows how to play to people’s fears and to stoke divisions, but he doesn’t seem to get that real leaders respect those they are charged with leading. He swore to be a “president for all of us” in his inauguration speech—unfortunately, his leadership style is more like “what have you done for me lately?”

Trump Saturn-Venus conjoins Bush Pluto-Venus (all Cancer); Trump Jupiter-Chiron-Juno conjoins Bush Moon (and very widely Saturn—all in Libra). These two cardinal gatherings square each other, of course—we could add Bush’s Eris (Aries) in here to create a t-square configuration, but let’s keep it simple. The point here is to see how different each man’s approach to security and relationship issues is: with Bush the concerns were definitely intense—much was at stake for him, as the patriarch of a powerful family. 

We’ve discussed the deep importance his Moon-Saturn and Venus-Pluto have had, the role powerful women have played in his life, and so on. Unless appearances are very deceiving, he did an admirable job leading his large family with love, grace and dignity.

On the other hand, there’s Trump—also the pater familias (Saturn-Venus in Cancer), but of a distinctly different kind of family. Family members—and the real estate and “branding” organization they run—are at risk of multiple indictments for corrupt financial (and political) practices even as we speak. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but Donald Jr. may have played an indictable role in colluding with Russia during Election 2016, Ivanka’s use of personal email for government business is being scrutinized, multiple layers of suspicion surround the business ties the Trump Organization has had with Russia and other unsavory players. 

Trump’s had a history with strong women, as well, beginning with his mother, however, he seems bent on dominating and demeaning women (remember Access Hollywood?), rather than partnering with them in any positive way as Bush did. Bush was married for 73 years to the same woman; Trump is on his third wife, Melania, who seems to have some inner strength for the role she plays, but she is far from a true “partner” in her husband’s administration. She dutifully shows up when a photo op is required, but it all has the air of a beautiful woman being used for a powerful husband’s advantage (Jupiter-Chiron in Libra, disposed by Cancer Venus-Saturn). We can only feel for both her and their son, Barron. 

As if the scrunity mentioned above on him and his family wasn’t enough, Trump’s refusal to distance himself from his businesses while in office (to avoid important conflicts of interest) has spawned new lawsuits and a new round of subpoenas by the District of Columbia Attorney General. Several top-level advisors from Election 2016 (Manafort, Cohen, Pappadopoulos, Gates, and more) are either indicted or awaiting sentencing. The Trumps may be New York “royalty” of sorts, but the general lack of scruples and integrity being revealed is stunning. It’s all an unfair “witch hunt,” of course! 

Former presidents celebrate the opening of the elder Bush's presidential library.

Final thoughts

As mentioned earlier, the only reason to consider the contrasts and parallels between the now late 41st president and our present 45th is to better appreciate the importance of choice when it comes to natal potentials. Undoubtedly environment and cultural forces play an important role in how individuals actualize their astrological “gifts,” yet the disparity between these two leaders—separated by only 22 years in their births and possessing so many similar qualities—is a puzzle. Are the key differences a function of the respective times they were born into? Let’s take a quick look at their cycles profile tables below:

Table 1.
Planetary Cycles
Cycle in force on
6/12/1924-GWH Bush
Cycle phase in force 6/12/1924
9/1921, 27+Vir
3/1914, 9+Aq
9/1919, 10+Leo
8/1918, 5+Can
1/1897, 27+Sco
8/1917, 4+Leo
5/1915, 0+Can
3/1821, 3+Cap
6/1850, 29+Ar
Aug. 1891, 8+Gem

Table 2.
Planetary Cycles
Cycle in force on
Cycle phase in force 6/14/1946
8/1940, 14+Tau
5/1941, 25+Tau
9/1945, 5+Lib
8/1943, 6+Leo
5/1942, 29+Tau
8/1917, 4+Leo
5/1915, 0+Can
3/1821, 3+Cap
6/1850, 29+Ar
Aug. 1891, 8+Gem

Here we see more interesting parallels, with some important differences: both men were born into 6 waxing cycles and 4 waning cycles, although the choice of cycles for each is different. Even so, certain roads to opportunity (Jupiter cycles) were wide open to both of them, although Bush experienced more early disruption along with those opportunities (waning Jupiter-Uranus cycle). 

On the other hand, collective restraints (Saturn cycles) weighed more heavily on Trump early on—the Saturn-Pluto cycle began anew in 1947, pointing to the overriding importance his father had in his ethical development and attitude towards society. The elder Trump had serious run-ins with the laws in New York in regards to housing discrimination,and he handed those off to his son—from Wikipedia:

“[Fred] Trump was investigated by a U.S. Senate committee for profiteering in 1954.[4] He made Donald the president of Trump Management Company in 1971,[5] and they were sued by the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division for violating the Fair Housing Act in 1973.[6]
Interestingly, the first investigation fell during the 1947 Saturn-Pluto cycle’s 1Q (12-1955) and its 3Q (10-1973). What sweet revenge it must be for the son to now vindicate the father by undermining that same Justice Department and rolling back Civil Rights protections with phony “voter fraud” campaigns—and doing all this during the final year or so of the current 1982 Saturn-Pluto cycle. 

Above all, what an interesting, but grotesquely twisted parallel between the Bush father-son relationship (their final words together were “I love you”) and the Trumps’ unscrupulous “business” relationship. Yes, character is built upon the potentials of a nativity, yet there’s so much more involved, and an endless series of choices to make.  

But enough of this—let’s celebrate the fact that a man of George H.W. Bush’s stature and character was among us, and for a time, led the nation in a far more constructive direction. We are now faced with environmental challenges that our scientists feel we are already failing—and Trump seems bent on making sure that we fail. Let’s hope that this week’s brief glimpse of greatness, lived out with dignity and grace, will remind us that we are better than, and more capable than the hollow shell of ourselves that we are seeing in the mirror today. 

Hail and farewell, President Bush—you were a credit to us all!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2018. All rights reserved. 

[1]Bil Tierney, Dynamics of Aspect Analysis: New Perceptions in Astrology, CRCS Publications, Reno NV, 1983, pp. 82-3.
[2] Demetra George & Douglas Bloch, Asteroid Goddesses: The Mythology, Psychology and Astrology of the Re-emerging Feminine, Ibis Press, Lake Worth, FL, 2003 edition, p. 63.
[3] George & Bloch, p. 106.
[4] David Brooks, Summary of the Road to Character, A Book a Day e-book, 2015, pp. 3-4.