Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The power in deception: Neptune & Pluto usher Manafort to trial

“Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.” (back cover, Orwell on Truth)

“Though this is madness, yet there is method in’t.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii). 

Yes, Virginia, we are living in mad, Orwellian times—times when if the Leader says “up” is “down” and “right” is “left,” then that’s just how it is and it’s fruitless to say, “but…didn’t he say…?” Can we argue with Neptune and Pluto working in tandem, as they are today? 

It is possible, however, that resisting the Orwellian lunacy isn’t fruitless…as hard as he tries, Fearless Leader Trump hasn’t been able to totally eradicate our rights to a free press, free speech, or to fair, impartial judgment in a court of law. He also hasn’t yet succeeded in confusing and gaslighting the majority of the country into submission—again, not for lack of trying. 

Saturn is now transiting its home sign of Capricorn, and some respect for the rule of Law, the facts and clear logic is still favored, despite the duress created by Neptune’s illusion-spinning in home sign Pisces. Truth-telling journalists and rule-of-law types like Rod Rosenstein have been struggling during this period, but they've held their own. 

Maybe Neptune and Pluto are just challenging us to commit to what’s really important to us? 

During a speech this past week in front of Nebraska farmers—business people struggling to understand why Trump is pursuing a trade war that puts their living on the line—Trump didn’t offer hopeful facts, a strategic plan or even a timeline after which the pain should ease up. Instead, he attempted to manipulate their perception of the situation:

"Stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."
So they shouldn’t believe what they see happening—warehouses full of perishable products they can’t sell—they should instead believe him that everything is going to be fine, someday. And this past Thursday, incredibly, Trump met with farmers to toss green “Make Farmers Great Again” hats at them, like that makes up for the hard times and insecurity they’re experiencing! Really?!

I find it hard to believe that these pragmatic business people really buy into Trump’s “through-the-looking-glass” logic (or his hats) even if it’s from a president they largely support. Their crops are rotting in warehouses while Trump threatens their overseas markets and tosses hats at them! Kalena Bruce, a 5th generation Missouri farmer and a Trump supporter, writes in today’s Washington Post that she believes Congress should take back its power to regulate tariffs because Trump’s policies thus far have been too destructive:

“Farmers use a lot of steel, which Trump subjected to a 25 percent tariff in March. Combines, grain bins, fencing and cattle gating, which we are constantly upgrading and replacing, have become significantly more expensive as steel prices have jumped because of the tariffs…
Yet the most significant consequence of tariffs for farmers has been the inevitable tariff blowback…China has targeted soybeans and hogs with steep retaliatory tariffs…More than one-third of U.S. soybeans, the second-biggest crop in the nation, goes to China — about $12.4 billion worth. Since May, soybean prices have dipped about $2 per bushel to about $8.50 as export markets have dried up. For every dollar lower a bushel, farmers lose about 10 percent of their revenue.
Meanwhile, pork exports to China are down nearly 20 percent this year.…As a result of the limited export markets, meat is piling up in U.S. cold-storage warehouses. Since May, prices of lean hog futures have fallen by 14 percent.”

Clearly, farmers know what they need from every acre of their productive land and every animal they raise to make ends meet—illusions and vague promises just don’t cut it! They deal with fickle Mother Nature on a daily basis and somehow manage: all they ask from the government is access to markets and a sane trade policy! 

In her article, Bruce reinforced that farmers don’t want aid, they want trade, but she characterized Trump’s move to issue $12 billion in emergency aid to farms in more colorful language: “It is the economic equivalent of treating a hangnail by cutting off your finger.”

Bruce’s article is only one small expression of the resistance Trump is getting to his tariff policies, but clearly Trump doesn’t want to lose farmers: on Thursday he—speaking with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker—agreed to back off from a trade war in return for short term soy bean sales, lower steel prices and natural gas. 

It probably also helped that the farmers’ plight has been providing negative press for Trump all week, as well, and he wasn’t able to simply paint all the coverage as “fake news.” And this isn’t the only issue dogging Trump’s steps, but his response is always predictable: either slam the press as “fake” for reporting unflattering facts, or try to totally shut the press out of everything he’s doing. Neither of these approaches is sustainable, but they work with his core base, which has internalized Trump’s victimization narrative. Neptune-Pluto (victimization in the service of power) working overtime!

In fact, Trump is borrowing numerous pages out of Neptune-Pluto’s playbook when it comes to the press, gradually choking off its access to vital information, and thereby eroding its constitutional rights and ability to keep all us informed with the facts. Orwell got it right in 1984 when his character Syme asks Winston, “’Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?”[1]  

Orwell's 1984

By privileging Fox and supporters like Sean Hannity with fuller access (as long as they stick to the “official” line), Trump has been gradually imposing a type of “State media” network into our national discourse, and the narrative is amazingly consistent because it’s ripped right out of Trump’s speech lines: the president is an innocent victim of thousands of ingrates, when all he’s trying to do is make American great again

Narrow the range of acceptable ideas and above all, trim and dumb down the language. 

Trump even fumed at the First Lady’s choice of CNN on her Air Force One television (she was not amused—CNN was talking about his affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal that day)!
Despite vigorous and determined resistance however (thank you, late-night TV hosts!), the administration’s attempts to undermine our access to information and our free press, a key democratic institution, are doing damage. 

One White House employee has been experiencing the damage up close, and decided to call it quits this past week. According to The Hill.com:
“Beck Dorey-Stein, who worked as a stenographer for the White House during the second half of the Obama administration, told CNN's New Day on Wednesday that Trump's refusal to allow stenographers in the room for meetings and interviews with some journalists crossed a line.
‘I quit because I couldn't be proud of where I worked anymore,’ Dorey-Stein said. ‘I felt like President Trump was lying to the American people, and also ... not even trying to tell the truth. He wasn't even going the extra mile to have the stenographers in the room.’"
When power players employ deception and withhold information to solidify their own power, rest assured Neptune and Pluto are involved; unfortunately, both energies are being wielded in some really twisted ways these days. Thursday’s news blew up over former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s claim that Trump Sr. knew about and approved the suspicious meeting with Russian in Trump Tower in June 2016. Then comes a twist to the revelation—that Trump’s lawyers may have been the ones to leak this explosive information so Cohen doesn’t get credit with Mueller for it. And, by the way, there was probably a second meeting we didn’t even know about!

Not surprisingly, Giuliani has since leapt in with a “double-blind” Neptune-Pluto maneuver: making a show of denying the claim and using the opportunity to tear down Cohen’s reputation. As for why Cohen would record his meetings with former client Trump: perhaps he had the perspective to know that with Trump, loyalty flows in one direction alone?

Giuliani’s making all kinds of protestations that may sound cagey—most recently the theme of his tap dance (echoed by Fox, of course) has been “there was no collusion, but even if there was, collusion’s not a crime…”—but I doubt that Mueller is impressed. When the Neptune-Pluto intrigue becomes so entangled that we can’t tell information from mis-information, it’s time to rely on good old Saturnian facts, and Mueller seems to have more than enough of those.

All these crazy maneuvers are unfolding on cosmic schedule, of course: Pluto has been transiting opposite Sibly Mercury (Cancer) and squaring Sibly Saturn (Libra), while Neptune is transiting trine the Sibly Sun (Cancer). It’s no wonder that the free press and free speech (Mercury) are under duress, as are our democratic institutions and the rule of law (Saturn).  What we must preserve if we’re going to live through this as an intact democracy are the facts, some semblance of moral authority (both Saturn) and our optimism (Neptune has been dampening that, transiting square our Jupiter-ruled Sagittarius Sibly ASC). 

I would offer that the vicious ebullience we see at Trump rallies is a product of this transiting square, as well--Trump knows just how to weaponize delusion, which at this point is getting quite bloated (Jupiter) on its own toxic energies. There must be targets to vent on, media outlets to jeer, reputations to tear down.

The rest of the world has been wondering if we’re the same upbeat, arms-open, forward-looking nation they’ve known all these years—as well they should. 

There’s a reason Trump is good buds with David Pecker of American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer and other info-tainment publications. Such publications have no commitment to the facts: they thrive on fact “fragments” that can be stretched and spun into salacious gossip, conspiracy-thinking and “alternative realities,” and Trump knows how to benefit from this approach. Aside from helping to squelch former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about her affair with Trump to the tune of $150k, AMI was very helpful in others ways with Trump’s 2016 victory. This is a story that’s unfolding as we speak. 

As we know from his firing of former FBI director, James Comey, personal loyalty to Trump often requires being willing to spin “alternative facts,” or simply ignore the facts altogether. If Trump’s “pitbulls” on the House Intelligence Committee (Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, etc.) are any guide, loyalist tactics against Trump’s “enemies” range from “mean girl” rumor-mongering to outright verbal bullying, designed to tear down their target’s reputation and everything they ever worked for.

Look what happened to former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe, targeted by Trump and company most viciously, it seemed, because he committed the “sin” of having a wife who ran for office as a Democrat (public servants are entitled to private lives, political or otherwise). They needed a whipping boy for their animus towards the Mueller investigation, and he was convenient. 

If Trump can’t be assured of personal loyalty from those around him—and he has his ways of judging this, undoubtedly—it seems that he will find a reason to get rid of that government official, no matter how competent they are, no matter how long they’ve served. Finding a pretext to destroy a person one finds threatening (even if that threat is entirely in one’s own mind) is another of Neptune-Pluto’s many lower impulses, and like all things ruled by this duo, these impulses can become addictive and compulsive over time. 

I have to believe that even Trump’s most loyal base is getting weary of the negative ways in which Trump is using them, but where will they draw the line?  

The day Trump fired McCabe (this past March 16th)—2 days before McCabe would have been able to retire with his pension intact—a fire grand trine formed between transiting Mars (Sagittarius), McCabe’s Mars (Aries)[2] and Trump’s Mars (Leo), so we can just feel the angry alpha male beating his chest here. Unfortunately, transiting Pluto (Capricorn) fell square McCabe’s Mars, and transiting Neptune conjoined McCabe’s Sun/Venus (midpoint, Pisces), throwing all certainty for his future resources into disarray. 

McCabe may be able to mount a powerful appeal, however Neptune also semi-sextiled his Saturn, clouding his reputation and pulling the rug out from under him, professionally. Hopefully time will heal this wound in some way.

Comey’s refusal to pledge personal loyalty to Trump and relinquish his Constitutional duty to investigate possible crimes was a factor in his firing, even before McCabe, of course. And not to be overlooked, Trump threatened this past week to revoke the security clearances of key former intelligence and national security officials because he didn’t like the press they were creating for him.

Journalists would concur.
These are the tactics of a Neptune-Pluto bully, and true to form, bullies tend to be fearful people. 

In fact, transiting Neptune and Pluto are probably shaking Trump’s confidence these days, which may help explain his growing instability. Even his son, Don. Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner appear to be in the legal crosshairs these days, for their role in connecting “Dad’s” campaign to helpful Russians. So, vulnerabilities abound: today’s opening of the trial against Trump’s former campaign CEO Paul Manafort is a prime example that’s worth a deeper look.

To do this, we’ll take a quick look at the trial launch at 10 a.m. today, and next to the same chart against Trump’s nativity (Biwheel #1 below), keeping a sharp eye out for Neptune-Pluto action. In all fairness, Manafort’s trial isn’t happening to Trump, but Trump very likely feels that it is. Besides, many analysts consider this trial to be the start of a new phase of the overall Mueller investigation, so we’ll keep that in mind as we go. 

In a future post, we’ll consider a biwheel with Manafort’s nativity, as well.

In fact, Trump may be right to fear what’s about to happen with Manafort because it’s possible Manafort functioned as some kind of liaison between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Time will tell on this—let’s not get ahead of our skis here! So, first we’ll take a quick peek at the trial event chart on its own before we take a deeper dive into the biwheel.

Chart #1: Manafort trial begins, July 31, 2018, 10:00 a.m. DST (published time), Alexandria, VA. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

It’s worth noting here that Mercury rules the trial chart via its Virgo ASC, and wouldn’t you know, Trump’s Sun (22+Gemini) and the trial chart’s MC are exact within minutes of each other. So yes, Trump will be top-of-mind as the proceedings launch. Will his ego priorities overwhelm the scene? 

Venus conjoins Trial ASC (both Virgo) and squares MC/Trump Sun, which reflects the financial corruption charges brought against Manafort. This also suggests that an effort to “do the right thing” will be made, but this “servant” Venus may be corruptible (including in $$$)—ruling the chart’s 2nd and 9th houses, it’s trine Pluto (Capricorn) and quincunx Eris (Aries). 

Giuliani—Trump’s newest and probably chattiest “fixer”—will likely play a role in at least “framing” what goes on, if not worse. We can just see the “cast” forming: Manafort as the “fair” victim (12th house Venus opposite Neptune conjoined Moon in Pisces); Trump as the “hero” on high (his Sun conjoined Trial MC). Journalists will be all over this story trying to get the facts straight. 

Now, on to the biwheel.

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) Donald J. Trump, June 14, 1946, 10:54 a.m. DST, Jamaica, NY; (outer wheel) Manafort trial begins, July 31, 2018, 10:00 a.m. DST (published time), Alexandria, VA. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Trial No. Node-Sun-Pallas (Leo) conjoin Trump Pluto (Leo) and square Trial Jupiter (Scorpio). These aspects suggest that Trump’s ambitions for personal power will be challenged by the Manafort trial. Whether justice (Pallas) will succumb to Trump’s power-plays (Pluto) or will overcome them may depend upon whether the “big guns” (Trial Jupiter) are being deployed to defend him or to implicate him. This Jupiter falls over Trump’s 3rd house of communications—we can expect lots of foaming-at-the-mouth tweets!

Trial MercuryRx conjoins Trump Mars-ASC (Leo) and sextile/trines Trump Sun-Node (Gemini) and Moon (Sagittarius). Please recall from the Trial chart itself is ruled by this newly-retrograde Mercury (it stationed Rx on the 26th, just before the eclipse); the fact that it conjoins Trump’s Mars-ASC confirms that Trump will have a “mouthpiece” busily spinning the story for his purposes, and that some aspects of the trial “narrative” may change, need to be revisited, or will be challenged and thrown out of court. These conjunctions suggest that Trump will want to weigh in on the proceedings.

The charges against Manafort in this trial (a later trial will focus on his Ukraine/Russian connections more specifically) focus on alleged bank fraud and tax evasion charges, so it may not be too difficult for Trump to distance himself from these first proceedings. 

The question is whether he will be tempted to swoop in with a presidential pardon just to shut it all down because the second trial could be more incriminating to him? His Leo Mars demands control over his environment (ASC) and his Moon (Sagittarius) would throw caution to the wind, so an impulsive pardon wouldn’t be surprising. More on this possibility below. 

Trial Pluto (Capricorn) opposes Trump Saturn-Venus (Cancer), challenging his self-protective sense of justice and fairness. If Trump’s natural tendency is to fear or obsess over his relationships (why else would he need loyalty pledges?), this long-term transit will make him feel more vulnerable than usual, and it’s just really getting started. His Saturn-Venus conjunction occupies his 11th house of associates, goals and influence, so his substantial finances (always a source of influence) and powerful relationships may feel (and may be, down the road) threatened. 

Michael Cohen’s “betrayal” (Pluto challenging Saturn-Venus, Trump’s check-wielding cosmic “fixer?”) fits all this to a tee, as does the Manafort trial, of course. Will Manafort “make a deal” that blows back on Trump? There’s no sign that he’s trying to do so yet, but Mercury and Saturn are both retrograde, and the trial has a ways to go. 

Trial Neptune squares Trump Uranus-No. Node-Sun (Gemini). With all the Pluto activity discussed above, it’s no surprise that Trump is doubling down on his efforts to surround himself with allies who will help shield him from the law, like his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh? Kavanaugh has expressed the opinion that a sitting president can’t be indicted, and Trump craves that security right now. If he can’t dictate what the facts are in a court of law, he’ll angle for the next best outcome, being unaccountable to the facts, and this Neptune may or may not enable that quest. 

Or, as noted above, he could simply opt for the self-serving, yet “compassionate” use of Neptune—the pardon. We can just hear the reasoning: Manafort is being treated so unfairly…Yadda, yadda. 

Interchart Grand-Square: Trump NeptuneRx (Libra) opposes Trump Eris (Aries); this axis squares Trial SaturnRx (Capricorn) opposed Trump Mercury (Cancer). This tense configuration reflects the “battle fever” that will be driving Trump to evade responsibility (Saturn).  Spinning the narrative (Mercury, Neptune) that emerges from this trial—and from the rest of the Mueller investigation, for that matter—will be one likely weapon he’ll employ, but with Neptune and Eris stretched across his financial 2nd-8th axis, we can expect other forms of passive aggression and potential cover-ups. 

Toxic Neptune-Pluto techniques for abuse!
Trump’s natal Mercury-square-Neptune has mastered these arts—as commentator Liz Plank noted on MSNBC yesterday, Trump and his sidekick Giuliani are “weaponizing gaslighting” and even the appearance of “incompetence” to confuse and obfuscate the truth these days. 

The good news is, transiting Saturn (even retrograde) may cut through the Neptunian fog and lay out the facts more clearly than Trump might like. Saturn goes direct in early September, so it’ll be interesting to see what’s revealed at that point.

Trial SaturnRx trines Trial Uranus (Taurus). Finally, this earthy trine, with Uranus disposed by an earthy Venus (Virgo) reflects the big money dealings at stake in this trial. Uranus falls in the event chart’s 8th house, while SaturnRx falls in the 4th (see Chart #1 above). “Follow the money” has been the only reliable way to pin down corrupt players forever, although this aspect suggests that the case against Manafort may be far from a slam-dunk precisely because big money players are involved. It would be unwise to take anything for granted!   

Final thoughts

In the course of this trial—and this new phase of the overall Mueller investigation we seem to be entering—all the familiar themes and tactics we’ve seen from the Trump White House are likely to be magnified: the Orwellian rhetoric and attempts to undermine any firm grasp on the facts will be ramped up; what Washington Post writer Michael Gerson calls the “lunacy of Trumpian morality” will become even more desperate and self-focused. No amount of erratic behavior, weaponized chaos, gaslighting or conspiracy theory-mongering will be off limits, if Trump’s team is looking for a defense. 

The question is, will the court of public opinion continue being vulnerable to this "lunacy," or will our rule of Law hold more sway? The fact that this is happening in an election year could play to either side, unfortunately, but securing our election and voting is critical, no matter what!

Yes, Neptune and Pluto are weighing heavily on us these days, but this duo has a lighter side we can tap into, as well. We can “be” the sanity and compassion we want to see in our public discourse, and we can work with Pluto to transform institutions that are outworn, but worth rebuilding and strengthening. We can save our loyalties for those who truly deserve them, people with integrity and character, whose words mean something and whose intentions are honorable and transparent. Wouldn’t that feel good again?!

Thankfully, we will have an opportunity to press the cosmic reset button on our national priorities when the new Jupiter-Saturn and Saturn-Pluto cycles commence in 2020. Whatever condition the Trump administration leaves our democratic institutions in, if we've "dis-illusioned" ourselves from these Orwellian times and play our cosmic cards right, we should have an opening to rebuild and renew in these new cycles. More to come as all this unfolds--keep it light!

Truer words?

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, the Astrological Journal (UK) and other publications over the years.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at: robertsonraye@gmail.com.

© Raye Robertson 2018. All rights reserved. 

[1] George Orwell, comp. Harvill Secker, intro. Adam Hochschild, Orwell on Truth, Houghton-Mifflin, New York, NY, 2017, p. 182.
[2] Andrew McCabe, XXXXXX

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