Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why government is not a business…D.C.'s astrological cautionary tale

We’re drowning in twisted messages…one legal expert says that when government officials make false statements, it’s an illegal act. Others say that such actions aren’t necessarily illegal. 

Does the First Amendment right to free speech protect political bald-face lies? If a so-called “leak” is involved in revealing that the president’s words are unreliable, deceptive or outright calculated manipulations (as in the leaked transcripts of his conversations with Mexico’s president and Australia prime minister), who’s speech is protected and who’s isn’t?  

Last time I checked, telling the truth was a matter of socially-acceptable behavior in general—what some would call morality. Telling the odd fib to save a social situation from going sour usually feels okay, but vicious lies told at the expense of other people to promote some selfish aim (say when Trump spreads blatant lies about his opponents and many “enemies”) are still offensive to our collective consciousness.

In traditional terms, lying to hurt another person is immoral—Catholics used to go to confession for the sins of slander and defamation. But now we have to wonder if it’s even the job of government to be truthful, moral or ethical. What about fair and just? The Trump administration seems to be dismantling any preconceived notions we might have had about ethics, justice and moral government before our very eyes.

The big questions are: can democracy survive this dismantling in the end? Does democracy require these virtuous underpinnings to function, or not? We know that the free press was conceived very early on as a way to hold public officials accountable to We the People—their employers, after all. What does Trump’s war against the mainstream media and the truth tell us, in light of all this?  

Needless to say, we’re grappling with deep, dark Neptune/Pluto survival issues as a nation, as Pluto edges closer and closer to its 27°+ Capricorn return point in the Sibly chart, while Neptune drifts within the final 10 degrees of its Pisces half-return to Sibly Neptune (22°+Virgo), and Trump is looking more and more like Neptune-Pluto’s “useful idiot” (a term translated from the Russian). 

He and his administration have forced us to think deeply about the difference between “fake news” and “real news,” a difference that has deep implications. 

The difference between real and fake may not sound like the end of the world (Trump and No. Korea are working on that), but the problem deepens when we realize how Trump and company use “real/fake” to challenge our democratic system of checks of balances. Ethics and accountability issues play out differently in the corporate and government worlds—if we think Congress gets away with a lot, consider what happened to the CEOs who brought the economy down in 2007-8. Basically nothing!

Democracy can’t function as a corporation does because corporations are fundamentally non-democratic. There are no checks and balances between distinct, equal power centers in a corporation, so it’s no surprise that Trump chafes at those checks every time Congress people decide to answer to their constituents instead of to him. Do we really want an unfettered CEO-in-Chief who is also Commander-in-Chief and answers to basically no one

More importantly, Trump is attempting to transform the government into a business by specifically blurring the distinction between his businesses and the business of government. He moves between our public properties and his private properties as though they are continuous and interwoven—do his properties get paid for his weekend get-aways, golf outings and high-profile meetings? The White House is a “dump?” Maybe if you look at it as just another piece of property. Hopefully it’s not being turned into a Trump property as we speak. 

By extending the physical reach of the Executive Branch to include his properties (a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club is the latest travesty), Trump is probably violating the Constitution’s Emolument Clause on a daily basis. This is especially true for his Trump International Hotel in D.C. Since his brazen disregard for ethical norms is enabled by a number of overly vague loopholes, our legal system may or may not be able to force him to choose between public service and private enterprise because he wants it both ways. 

This desire is not surprising for his rebellious natal Gemini Sun-Uranus conjunction (chart not shown), opposite his ambitious (and perhaps greedy) Sagittarius Moon. I’m hopeful this gross overreach will be challenged, but so far our system is batting zero. 

Trump’s admiration for Putin’s Russia suggests that he would himself prefer a transactional, kleptocratic-style government in which business interests (especially those of the chief executive and his family) reign freely and perpetuate themselves into the future. We forget at our peril that left up to their own devices, capitalist businesses answer to stockholders first (the wealthy, in other words), and everyone else only tangentially. Corporations have all the rights of a legal “person” under the Constitution (a clause that I bet Trump is not planning to dismantle), yet few of the responsibilities. 

A wake-up call

So, here’s the dystopian vision ahead, if these “run the government like a business” ambitions are allowed to flourish: Trump finishes rolling back existing regulations, which allows the newly liberated kleptocrats to have no labor laws to rein in their abuses, no environmental regulations to rein in their greed and hunger for natural resources, and no responsibility to pay more than scant taxes. 

This all becomes a dreary Neptune-Pluto game of diminishing returns for the nation’s coffers, which creates the pretext for further suffocating any human and social priorities. Modernized infrastructure? Health care for all? In our dreams. 

Or, maybe we’ll wake up from this feverish dream, realize we’re hitting bottom and that the only way to go is up. Maybe we’ll take charge by applying some socially-responsible Jupiter-Saturn principles to Neptune-Pluto’s game and proactively shaping what happens next. Every expansion—of corporate and Executive branch power, for instance—needs to be kept in balance with judicious regulations, checks and balances, and strategic long-term goals. IMHO, when corporate power is allowed to get out of balance with the rest of society’s power centers, the corporate sector becomes a toxic parasite (Neptune-Pluto!) on that society. 

What happens when the Executive branch plays a key role in that imbalance?

There’s a reason that governments issue charters to corporations—such organizations are meant to serve a positive public purpose, and when they cease doing so, those charters can (theoretically) be withdrawn. Or so it used to be—there’s no denying that Government/Business power dynamics have been flipped since the 1993 Uranus-Neptune cycle launched in Capricorn.
This cycle (still very much with us) is an interesting case that drives so much of what we’re seeing today with the Trump administration. In Capricorn, Uranus and Neptune are all about Wall Street’s mantra, “greed is good,” and thus they undermine ruler Saturn’s natural affinity for balance. This affinity is due to Saturn’s exaltation in Libra—a rational air sign that can seem indecisive, but when public affairs (and forces like Wall Street) need to be drawn back from the fringe extremes and rebalanced, the “middle path” of carefully weighing both sides of the story before acting is useful. 

On the other hand, Saturn’s Libran tendency to work two sides of a problem en route to a solution can become toxic if we aren’t vigilant. Which leads me to a key player in the Trump administration: “wonder boy” and Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner. 

The New York Times’ Frank Bruni calls Kushner the “Prince of Having it Both Ways” in his July 22, 2017 opinion piece (published just before Kushner was scheduled to testify in a Congressional committee). A quick excerpt captures the picture very well:

“On Monday, Jared Kushner is set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but not so that we can listen. Not so that we can watch. It’s a closed-door affair, meaning that unlike Jeff Sessions, Kushner gets to dance in the dark.

How fitting. We always see his fingerprints but never hear his voice. He throws his weight around, then floats above it all. No wonder the president’s lawyers and various White House aides and advisers are fed up with him. He’s there but not there: a meddlesome ghost. A puff of smoke.

He got the emails about emissaries of a foreign adversary bearing dirt, but — what do you know? — read right over the subject line that said “Russia - Clinton - private and confidential.” No flashing lights in those proper nouns. No blaring sirens in those particular adjectives.

He attended the Trump Tower meeting, but stayed for only 10 minutes, a grace period that apparently doesn’t count. I guess it’s like canceling the on-demand movie rental shortly after the opening credits roll. No fee. No foul.

He failed to inform the F.B.I. about dozens of meetings with foreign officials during the campaign and the transition, but that was ostensibly a harmless oops. Someone prematurely hit ‘send.’ Happens with Amazon orders. Can happen just as easily with an application for the highest level of security clearance.”

Considering that Trump has placed Kushner—who has no political or diplomatic experience whatsoever—in charge of key imperatives like peace in the Middle East (how’s that going?), the faintly corrupt whiff we get from the above excerpt should concern us. As we might expect, no firm birth time is available for Kushner, but the noon chart for his published birth date of January 10, 1981 in Livingston, New Jersey speaks volumes, despite a imprecise Moon placement and unknown angles. 

For the record, the Moon was happily swimming in nebulous Pisces that day, transiting from 8°-22°, which fits the image Bruni portrays of this Neptunian Trump protégé: the cosmic Fish also likes to swim “both ways.”   

As we’ll see, however, Kushner’s chart features an interesting mix of Saturn and Neptune influences, with powerful Jupiter-Venus highlights that probably explain his “royal” marriage to Ivanka Trump. It’s not surprising that the press frames them as glowing, near equals to the UK’s William and Kate. 

Importantly, Kushner is a member of the Pluto-in-Libra generation and a child of the 1980 Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, also in Libra—an anomalistic air cycle that interrupted the long series of earth-signed cycles finally completing in December 2020. This is the cohort for whom the original Star Wars trilogy was more than a fantasy—they are endowed with “Jedi” souls and they instinctively know how to wield the “Force” from both the Dark and the Light sides. 

To place Kushner’s chart into a current context, I’ve placed his chart next to an important upcoming ingress: Saturn’s entry into its Capricorn comfort zone on this upcoming December 19th. This timing could be critical for him personally, and for the Trump administration. 

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) Jared Kushner, January 10, 1981, 12:00 p.m. ST (noon chart, no time available), Livingston, NJ; (outer wheel) Saturn Capricorn ingress, December 19, 2017, 10:07:12 p.m. ST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Interchart T-Square: Ingress Uranus-Eris (Aries) opposes Kushner Pluto (Libra); this axis squares Kushner (JK) Sun-Mercury (Capricorn) conjoined Ingress Moon-Pluto (Capricorn). A cardinal t-square is always intense, but with Uranus and Eris involved (Eris, not pictured unfortunately, is at 22°+Aries here), it should be doubly so. And doubly upsetting for a Neptunian Moon type—Uranus and Eris trine Kushner’s Sagittarius Neptune, and transiting Uranus also trines his Sagittarius Venus. As friendly as trines sound, in fire signs they often “unleash the fury” in ways that feel far from friendly. 

Among other pressures, transiting Uranus-Eris here reflect the tension that frequently spills out of the White House into the news via “leaks”—Kushner was reportedly instrumental in getting former FBI Director James Comey fired, he’s been at odds with Bannon from the get-go, and now Kushner is implicated in Donald Trump’s Jr.’s ill-considered, alleged meeting with a Russian lawyer promising Russian government “dirt” on Hillary Clinton during last year’s campaign. 

And, there were other ill-considered meetings with Russians he conveniently “forgot” when filling out his security clearance paper work. Bruni points out that Kushner also “blessed” his father-in-law’s hiring of Anthony Scaramucci—that went real well. 

It took a Congressional Intelligence committee hearing to prompt Kushner to speak out loud to the American public—to excuse himself from all wrongdoing before the hearing, of course. As Bruni points out, Kushner tries to float above the fray and be just nebulous enough to remain untouchable—his father-in-law and high-powered lawyers have undoubtedly coached him well—but the big question Uranus transiting square his Sun raises is whether he’s pursuing his list of sketchy activities willingly, or whether he’s feeling trapped by the circumstances of his marriage.  

Pluto is also transiting conjunct his Sun, which is natally square Libra Pluto—more about that impending Pluto-square-Pluto transit in awhile!

The possibility that Kushner is feeling trapped is where Uranus-Eris’s trine to his Venus figures in, but this is not a new development. These Aries points have been transiting trine Kushner’s Sagittarius points all year, and Saturn has been transiting conjunct his Venus-Neptune. Perhaps Kushner thought he was just helping his father-in-law run for president, and when Trump lost (as most expected he would), he could get back to cultivating his real estate billions? Surprise, surprise—Uranus, Eris and Saturn had other plans. 

The pressure may reach some type of crescendo after the August 21st eclipse, as well, when all these fire-sign points form a grand trine that includes his Venus-Neptune.  Will his marriage begin to show stress fractures? Could he be “thrown under the bus” by the administration when the Mueller investigations get around to him? The limits of Trump’s loyalty to family members are untested thus far, but if the choice is between his son-in-law and Donald, Jr, who gets the shove?

Ingress Venus-Sun-Saturn (Sagittarius-Capricorn) conjoin Kushner’s Neptune-Venus (Sagittarius) and square Ingress Chiron (Pisces). The potentially disruptive force of the fire trines discussed above is likely to produce a dull ache in Kushner’s soul that may or may not influence what’s next. It’s possible that transiting Chiron is also conjunct Kushner’s Pisces Moon (or just past), indicating that this dull ache has probably been with him for awhile—perhaps explaining his almost “dead eyed” demeanor in so many media pics. Great wealth, political power and a fairy-tale marriage may or may not fill the void he’s experiencing. 

That being said, the Venus transit to his Neptune could still feel refreshing—perhaps easing up on the emotional stress (Neptune disposes his Pisces Moon) for a bit, even though Saturn will simultaneously conjoin his Venus. He’s not likely to be a very happy camper during this period, on balance, and there may be financial causes for this malaise. It’s hard to be more specific without chart angles and houses to analyze, but Kushner’s Venus disposes his Libra Jupiter-Saturn conjunction and his Libra Pluto, so Saturn’s restrictive transiting force will impact the areas of his chart that are ruled by these points. 

We know that Kushner must be paying enormous legal fees—if his father-in-law’s re-election campaign isn’t covering those, but like everything Kushner-related, this is also vague. 

Ingress Saturn (Capricorn) squares Kushner Jupiter-Saturn (Libra), which trine Kushner Mars-So. Node (Aquarius). This is a wide square transiting Saturn makes here, but as it settles deeper into Capricorn, the square will tighten, so this is a preview of things to come in Kushner’s chart. There’s a kind of “tag-team” effort here between transiting Jupiter and Saturn. From now through half of October, Jupiter will be transiting conjunct Kushner’s Libra Pluto, energizing his will-to-power and perhaps attracting opportunities to wield impressive power—this will be reinforced by the still-active transiting Jupiter-Pluto square  (Libra-Capricorn). 

As these aspects separate, however, Saturn’s transiting aspects to his chart will take over prominence; there’s bound to be some resistance to any power plays he may engage in. 

With his natal Jupiter-Saturn trine to Aquarius Mars, it’s no surprise that Kushner is the technology-brain of his father-in-law’s presidency, and someone Trump trusts to “get things done.” Or at least appear to get things done. The new “Trump TV” effort that launched this past week—basically, a propaganda network that says only nice things about Trump—has Kushner’s fingerprints all over it, for instance. He was talking about just such an effort in 2016, so it’s not likely to be something he just threw together on a break from bringing peace to the Middle East. 

It would actually be very interesting to see just where Kushner’s time is spent—again he has a job description that is so vague that we the taxpayers have no way of holding him accountable. Bruni highlights the ironies we’re seeing here very nicely:

“He’s new to all of this government gobbledygook. Not so new that he can’t reinvent the government, broker peace in the Middle East, spearhead our negotiations with countries elsewhere in the world, make headway against the opioid epidemic, reform the criminal justice system and still carve out time to tackle the slopes of Aspen with Ivanka and the kids.”
If anything is getting done on that list of nebulously broad projects, I’d like to know what it is. Interestingly, Kushner’s Libra Jupiter falls in mutual reception with his Sagittarius Venus, and with Saturn lining up to transit both uncomfortably in due course, there may be some attempt to pin down what, if anything, he’s actually doing on those projects. 

 It’s difficult to fathom that a Capricorn Sun native would be satisfied providing the appearance of getting things done instead of the tangible reality, but with a Pisces Moon and a celebrity marriage in which appearances and press coverage are everything, who knows? 

Handing off the jobs to Kushner may well have been Trump’s attempt to appear on top of the issues at stake, when he has no actual intent to do anything except leave Israel in charge of Palestine, leave Saudi Arabia to its own devices with the rest of the Middle East, and leave Russia to its own devices in Syria and Ukraine. 

To their credit, both Jared and Ivanka tried to convince Trump to stay in the Paris Climate Accord (sincerely, or for the appearances of it all?), but Trump’s refusal suggests that they have far less pull with Dad than we’ve been led to believe. Preserving the planet for those grandchildren who pop into the Oval Office for photo opportunities doesn’t seem to resonate. 

As for major initiatives on Kushner’s list, Trump’s big announcement about the opioid epidemic today is that more law enforcement is needed—an absolutely clueless and thoughtless approach which Health & Human Services director Tom Price tried to walk back immediately, focusing on the emergency and treatment aspects of the crisis. Where was Kushner on this?

Why the Capricorn ingress matters

Saturn is a naturally conservative energy, in the true sense of that word—not in the right-leaning sense it’s taken on in our politics. Former president Obama’s chart ruler is Saturn, with Aquarius rising and Saturn one of two final dispositors—Saturn in home sign Capricorn, and Sun in charismatic Leo. His Saturn was key to his thoughtful, deliberative approach to White House decision-making, which always seemed too slow or hesitant for his critics, but it probably prevented a lot of problems, too. Whose approach would we rather have for dealing with North Korea right now?

This December 2017 ingress for Saturn matters to Kushner personally because it closely precedes his 1st Saturn-Saturn square (after his 30-year old Saturn return), a time when we can expect his feet to be held to the fire a bit more than usual (especially in lockstep with all the Pluto activity in his chart). Just the appearance of being responsible won’t fly, especially for some past actions now under investigation. 

The fact that Kushner seems to enjoy cosmic “carte blanche” to ignore the rules (leaving meetings with Russians off his security clearance forms, etc.) speaks to his natal Jupiter-Saturn conjunction and nice Jupiter-Venus connections (see above), however transiting Saturn could very well challenge that. As mentioned earlier, he’s been in the throes of a long-term Pluto transit to his Capricorn Sun (which is natally squared by Libra Pluto) since 2015 (and which will persist into 2023), if we allow a 5-8° orb.

This Pluto transit to his chart overlapped in places with similar pressure applied to the Sibly Cancer Sun (chart not shown), so it’s not surprising that Kushner is an agent of transformation to the U.S. government. The question is, to what goal? Transit expert Robert Hand[1] captures this challenge of a Pluto-Sun conjunction very well:

“Pluto is the planet of death and regeneration, which means the elimination of whatever is old and outworn and the birth of a new, higher order. With Pluto on your Sun, you can be the agent of this process. ..But you must observe two limitations. First, Pluto gives tremendous drive and energy, but only for the elimination of the truly old and outworn, not for doing anything you want. And second, like the other planets beyond Saturn, Pluto is a transcendental planet. Therefore its energies are not easily harnessed to the purposes of unenlightened egotism…If you use the energy that Pluto gives for purely selfish ends, you will provoke such furious opposition that you will eventually be unable to do anything.”
Considering Kushner is also experiencing the mid-life Pluto-square-Pluto transit at the same time, we can see that the “screws” are being tightened on his ability to act with impunity. Lies will be scrutinized and called out for what they are. He’s been given great privileges and access, and with that comes great responsibility, and not just to his father-in-law! Reports we hear about Kushner’s battles for prominence in the White House fit right in with the downside of this Pluto activity, as does the depressed look we often see in Kushner’s eyes when he’s caught in a candid photograph. 

It’s a slippery slope he’s navigating at the moment, and all the slick lawyers in the nation won’t do him any good if he’s not willing to temper his ambition with responsibility. Perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt, however: maybe what we’re seeing isn’t the real Jared. If he were the man in charge, we might see that his impulses are more enlightened than his father-in-law’s (at least in terms of the environment), but unfortunately that’s not what we’re seeing. What we’re seeing now is a man who appears to have sold himself out (a Faustian Pluto-square-Pluto trap) with his activities on behalf of Trump. 

Chiron’s transiting square to his Sagittarius Venus-Neptune may also be adding to Kushner’s sense of being under “siege,” even if he masks his feelings in public with terse, confident-sounding statements. Between the Pluto and Saturn transits impacting his chart, defending his “turf” (Capricorn) when the Cosmos is demanding change won’t work for long—having it “both ways” often means trying to serve “two masters,” and we know how that goes. 

The nation

Finally, Saturn’s Capricorn ingress is important for the nation because it marks the final 3 year leg of the present Jupiter-Saturn cycle (begun in Taurus in 2000) and the beginning of their new cycle at 0°+Aquarius (December 2020). The end of the cycle that brought us the 9/11 attacks, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Wall Street and housing market collapses, our first African-American president, and now, Trump and the “Alt Right” enshrined in that “dump,” the White House and threatening to blow up the Korean peninsula. 
Yes, we’ll be seeing yet another major astrological transition during an election year, and it should, thankfully, be better than this! In Capricorn, Saturn may just prompt some more rational, calm behavior from our leadership, but we won’t be out of the woods yet. The last time Saturn ingressed Capricorn was in February, 1988, and 2-1/2 years later we were defending Kuwait from Iraq’s incursions (the First Gulf War) under George H.W. Bush’s conservative leadership and laying the groundwork for the Middle East debacles under “W” Bush’s later administration. 

In terms of the Trump administration, we can look to that late 1980s-early 1990s period as the beginnings of Trump’s celebrity real estate mogul heyday and the origins of his fascination with (and probably financial dependence upon) post-Communist Russia. Trump also published the Art of the Deal at the end of 1987, and first floated the idea of running for president that year (in the 1988 election). 

The late 1980s was, in fact, a period of rapid growth in conservatism across the nation, under the influence of anti-Keynesian (or “neoliberal”) economist, Milton Friedman and the “Chicago School” of economics. These ideas were given a platform during the 1980s Reagan-Thatcher years and informed later developments in global trade agreements and the unfettered flows of capital (and outsourced manufacturing) across borders. 

Trump railed against these “unfettered flows” during his campaign, yet he’s undoubtedly profited mightily over the years from those same dynamics. If suspicions that he’s been involved in Russian money laundering/real estate schemes over the years are true (this would be up to Mueller to investigate), he’s definitely profited from globalization. 

Saturn has a nasty way of calling such ventures to account, however—“what goes around comes around”—so any ventures that Trump took up during that 2/1988-2/1991 Saturn transit through Capricorn could resurface for scrutiny during its subsequent Capricorn “homecoming” that begins in December. 

Stay tuned for more on this story as it evolves…we’ll look at the upcoming eclipse in regards to North Korea next time!

[1] Robert Hand, Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living, Whitford Press, 1976, Atglen, PA, p. 487.

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