The Pen is Mightier than the Shoe

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Among the chattering classes, it’s become hip to salute the Iraqi journalist who hurled a pair of shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference on Dec. 14.

As much as I opposed the invasion of Iraq, where my nephew is now on his way to Mosul, I can’t feel good about a member of the media throwing anything at a person who is conducting a press conference, even if that person is one of the most incompetent Presidents in U.S. history.

The image above has been making the rounds, thanks to Baydan & Ducati, the manufacturer of the shoes that were thrown at Bush. However, I have to say that I’m with Laura Bush. I think this journalist crossed the line.

Did I think that gave his jailers the right to beat him into writing an apology, as his brother alleges? No. But I think reporters should confine their attacks to words.

Astrology Mundo’s Top 10 Predictions for 2009

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I made the mistake of buying Time magazine at the grocery store this week. I’m a sucker for lists and this week’s issue is devoted to them. Unfortunately, the editors should have provided a magnifying glass with the magazine. Running lists with tiny type is unfair to older readers, who after all are the only ones still buying print publications.

Having gotten that rant off my chest, here, without further ado, is the list of Astrology Mundo’s Top 10 Predictions for 2009. Most of these prognostications concern the U.S.

1. A huge revival in churchgoing and spirituality of all kinds
2. A major flu or epidemic
3. A very cold winter
4. Disillusionment with Barack Obama’s Administration (not just from me)
5. Roe v. Wade overturned or access to abortion greatly curtailed
6. More tent cities of homeless people like the one known as Camp Purgatory in Ontario, Calif.
7. Widespread bankruptcies of local and even state governments
8. Return to conservative manners and dress, even to the point of addressing people as Mr. or Mrs.
9. Hobbies — bridge, 1,000-word puzzles, gardening, studying genealogy, building models, collecting Americana, etc. — back in fashion
10. Potluck dinners become a national pastime

Astrologers out there will recognize a combination of Neptunian idealism and group action expanded by Jupiter in Aquarius, in seeming contradiction to conservative Pluto in Capricorn moving to oppose the Cancer stellium in the U.S. chart.

There’s also the ongoing opposition in the sky between restrictive Saturn, now transiting through Virgo, and revolutionary Uranus, in Pisces. This will provide plenty of fuel for class warfare in the coming months.

Pluto in Capricorn: Reading the Signs

In the late 1980s, I went to an interesting conference at Hunter College in Manhattan sponsored by the New York chapter of the National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR). I still remember a great presentation about how we should pay attention to hit songs and movies as an outer planet hits 0 degrees of a new sign. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the astrologer who gave the presentation. You’re a genius, whoever you are!

The example that has stayed with me all these years is that when Neptune first entered Capricorn, the Live Aid fund-raiser (July 13, 1985) was going on. Neptune was actually at 1 degree of Cancer during the concert.

Former Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof, who helped organize Live Aid, also put together a superstar band called Band-Aid that released a hit song Do They Know It’s Christmas?/Feed the World.

Proceeds of the song went to help victims of a famine in Ethiopia. Neptune rules music and charitable endeavors while Capricorn is associated with Christmas, the modern-day version of the pagan festival Saturnalia, which celebrated Cap’s ruling planet Saturn.

This weekend as Pluto went into Capricorn, the top film at the box office was Four Christmases, which follows the adventure of a couple played by Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, who try to visit their four parents on a single Christmas.

So what is the message? Pluto is intensity and the desire to get to the bottom of things. Capricorn rules parents and authority figures. I haven’t seen Four Christmases, which is a comedy, but my take is that we’re going to delve (Pluto) into the meaning of authority figures during Pluto in Cap. For most people, their first authority figures are their parents.

The flip side of this is: What does it mean to be a parent? Today’s New York Times Magazine has a cover story called “Her Body, My Baby,” about reporter Alex Kuczynski’s “adventures with a surrogate mom.”

Have you noticed a bit of pop culture that you think is a sign of things to come during this 15-year transit of Pluto in Capricorn? Astrology Mundo wants to hear about it.

The Pluto in Capricorn Ingress and the Mumbai Attacks

Those of us who study astrology know that even when we’re right, we’re rarely exactly right. A case in point: Gian Paul’s prescient post about the impact of the Pluto in Capricorn Ingress on Indian-Pakistani relations.

Gian Paul, who has contributed to Astrology Mundo in posts labeled “The View From Brazil,” predicted trouble between India and Pakistan around Nov. 27, 2008 as a result of Pluto moving from Sagittarius into Capricorn.

Gian Paul thought the problems would surface in Kashmir. Instead, we’ve gotten deadly attacks on tourists over the past two days in Mumbai, India, by an Islamic terrorist group calling itself the Deccan Mujihadeen.

Kudos to you, Gian Paul. Here’s the link to the earlier post about the Pluto in Capricorn Ingress.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this heinous crime and their families. The U.S. State Dept. has set up a call center for Americans concerned about family members who may be in Mumbai. The number is 1-888-407-4747.

Mom, I Came In 78th!

This is a big day for me. Astrology Mundo’s post on the full Moon in Taurus ranked No. 78 among WordPress blogs today.

Thanks to Gian Paul for pointing out that I got the time of the full Moon wrong, so I was able to correct it. Even though he predicted John McCain was going to win the Presidential election, we’re still keeping Gian Paul on staff as Brazil bureau chief, mostly because we don’t know anybody else in Brazil. 🙂

Kudos to Jude at Stars Over Washington for highlighting the mystic rectangle; my full Moon analysis was nowhere near as detailed as hers. My excuse? Too much focus on the corner of Broad and Wall streets.

Seriously, though, thanks to everybody who keeps me on my toes.

Starlinked: An Online Matchmaker with Stellar Insight

When I came back from a six-week tour of India in summer 2004, I began another odyssey: I started reading Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. The 1,488-page opus chronicles the widow Mrs. Rupa Mehra’s hilarious and heart-rending search for a husband for her daughter Lata.

In India, as you may know, marriages are still arranged by families. But before prospective spouses and their parents agree to a betrothal, an astrologer determines the compatibility of the couple.

That’s right: Close to 1.1 billion people believe in consulting an astrologer before they tie the knot. (Of course, not all of India’s citizens are Hindus who follow Vedic astrology. Still, there are plenty of Indians living outside the Subcontinent who rely on astrology to find a mate.)

We’re just joining this party in the West, but we’re harnessing the power of technology. Under the auspices of Astrology Explored’s Beth Turnage, I’ve learned about a new Web site called Starlinked that uses astrology to help you find your soulmate.

Starlinked’s president, Kurt Grandis, was kind enough to do a Q&A with Astrology Mundo via e-mail. What follows is an edited transcript of our “interview.”

What is Starlinked?
Starlinked is an online astrology-based matchmaking service. We are dedicated to providing high-quality astrology-based information to our members to help them find that special someone. While the inner workings of our compatibility engine are grounded in traditional astrological techniques the entire user experience is designed for [someone] who may not have much experience with astrology.

Actually, Starlinked is often the first foray into astrology beyond daily horoscopes for many of our users. Our goal is to bring the benefits of sophisticated astrological techniques in evaluating relationships to people less familiar with the power of astrology. We recognize that technology alone can never replace a personal reading by an experienced astrologer, so we plan to incorporate features that will help our members connect with qualified astrologers in their area.

How long has it been in existence?
The Starlinked idea has been floating around for awhile now. Active development on the site and its underlying technologies began about eight months ago and we just launched in October 2008. We took our first couple of weeks to focus on North Carolina, where we are located in Mebane, but are now beginning to roll out into the rest of the U.S.

Are there competing sites that use astrology to match up people?
There are a few other sites out there that do some form of astrological matchmaking, but most reduce it to something along the lines of sun sign matching. We are proud to be able to go leaps and bounds beyond that and base our compatibility measures on real astrological techniques.

You are not just 1 of 12 buckets we sort out. The matches we find for you are entirely personalized to the exact time and place you were born.

How do you make sure people aren’t lying about their ages?
Great question! This is something we are obviously concerned about since we wish to ensure the integrity of our compatibility measures. We do our best to balance the integrity of our natal information and the privacy of our users. We explain the importance of accurate birth dates and also offer our members the option to hide their age from others. This provides less incentive to “tweak” their birth year.

What if someone doesn’t know when he was born? What happens then?
This is often the case for our first-time visitors, who haven’t had astrological consultations before. We allow folks to come in and make a rough guess if they have some idea (e.g. sometime in the evening) or just plain-old say “I don’t know.” At the same time we record the data confidence or quality (like a Rodden Rating [pioneered by AstroDataBank founder Lois Rodden]). This way users can enter the system and get started without knowing their exact birth time.

Their compatibility scores are initially penalized due to the uncertainties associated with the data. Once they’ve had a chance to call Mom or check their birth certificate they can lock in their actual birth time.

What compatibility factors does your program look for? I’m thinking of Sun/Moon conjunctions, trines between Venus and Mars, and contacts involving Saturn, often the “glue” in long-term relationships?
Our compatibility engine runs a number of analyses in order to calculate each individual pair’s overall score. We look at a number of planetary interactions, including the ones mentioned, the nature of the aspect, its orb among other things. We consider composites as well as synastry.

For the time being, we have minimized Saturn’s influences due to some of its interpretive subtleties. To cater to our users with more astrology experience, we plan on incorporating features to allow more advanced users to customize the factors involved in their compatibility calculations. There is still a lot to do and this will likely not be our first priority, but we take these kinds of concerns seriously and will work towards the most comprehensive matching possible.

What other factors besides astrology are used to match people?
At this time we are focused on identifying matches based solely on astrological factors. This is in part a conscious choice; we want to differentiate ourselves from other matchmaking services that require users to answer so many questions to find their matches. We always encourage feedback from our members and will respond if people express a desire to consider other factors as well, but ultimately it is our intention to keep the site focused on astrology-based factors.

How does the system work?
As soon as a new user registers on the site, our compatibility engine calculates match scores for all members within 50 miles. New members are encouraged to fill out their profile information, but can immediately start reviewing their matches if they choose. If you don’t find someone right away, Starlinked can notify you of new matches as often as every day, once a week, or once a month if you prefer. Once you find your match, simply fill out a few forms to subscribe and start communicating with as many other members as you want.

Does it cost money to join?
It is free to sign up, create your profile, and view your matches. Then you can subscribe to the Starlinked service when you are ready to contact other members. A Starlinked subscription is $29.99 a month or three months at $19.99 a month.

Who are the brains behind Starlinked and what are their credentials? I’m particularly interested in the astrological credentials.
Starlinked, before it was named as such, came to me after watching a number of friends and family use online dating and matchmaking sites. It just seemed like an astrology-based solution should be available.

Then, as a classic Mars in Taurus, I considered working on the project, poked at it, and found myself spending more and more time on it until finally the floodgates opened and BLAM: Starlinked! I’ve had tremendous help from people along the way. I think we have built quite a pool of energy behind this project.

One thing I am particularly excited about is using the collective wisdom of the community to refine the compatibility engine. For instance, what happens if I take five astrologers and ask them to tell me about a potential relationship between two people? What happens is that the same major planetary aspects and contacts tend to make appearances, but everyone weights and interprets their importance and influence slightly differently.

Rather than hide, ignore, or run away from those variations, as some other computerized analysis systems do, we embrace them and use some powerful computational techniques to harness that information. In the end we are able to provide results that best resemble the opinions of the community.

We don’t claim that these numbers are the end-all and be-all of astrological compatibility, but rather a great place to start based on some real traditional techniques. And look, you just met someone with whom you’re probably pretty compatible…why not chat?

It seems to me that more women than men are interested in astrology. How will you get around that?
I think this is definitely the case when you are talking about astro-savvy people who are interested in the inner workings and methodologies of astrology. Take a few steps back and consider folks with a casual interest who might not know what a rising sign is, but do check their daily horoscope. You still have more women than men, but the gap has definitely closed. At one point Match.com reported about 60% male membership. We hope women will strong-arm their guy friends into creating profiles 🙂

Does the system match gay people?
Starlinked does match gay people using the same compatibility system used for straight relationships. Since we are not relying solely on sun signs and are considering numerous other types of (common) planetary interactions the potential differences in relational interpretation should be tempered. I know there has been and continues to be a lot of research done this area and I would certainly like to see Starlinked’s matches reflect that work.

What do you think Astrology Mundo’s readers should know about Starlinked?
As I mentioned earlier, for many of our users Starlinked is their first real exposure to astrology beyond their daily horoscope. For these people we encourage them simply to register, review their matches, and start getting to know people with whom they are astrologically compatible.

For people with more astrology experience, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with the project from authoring introductory relational astrology articles to participating in research to improve our compatibility engine. We are also working on establishing a consultancy or referral program for astrologers; when a user wants more detailed or personalized information, about a match or maybe regarding their own natal chart, they can select from a number of professional member astrologers offering their services.

We are excited about Starlinked and love to hear from our users on how we can improve the system. We have a number of things in the works and are always glad to take some direction from our community. Come on by and check us out!

Why the Phillies Will Win the World Series

I know, I know. Astrology Mundo was backing Joe Torre and the Dodgers in the National League championship series, but I’ve seen the error of my ways. I’ve run Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s natal chart with transits and progressions. Last time, I was just looking at transits.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, transiting Jupiter in Capricorn is past Manuel’s Sun. But what I didn’t mention is that it’s the midpoint of his Sun/Mercury conjunction in Cap. Reinhold Ebertin in The Combination of Stellar Influences says the aspect produces “good connections.” Connecting the bat with the ball is pretty important if you want to win the World Series.

Here’s the kicker: Progressed Jupiter at 18 degrees of Leo opposing the transiting the Aquarius stellium in the sky.

Here’s Charlie Manuel’s chart, with transits and progressions as of Oct. 30. I picked Oct. 30 because I don’t know how many games are going to be played in the Series and I think a celebration will take place around then. Manuel was born in Northfolk, W. Va. on Jan. 4, 1944. The time is unknown.

Of course, even the loser in the World Series is going to have some pretty good aspects. You have to be lucky and good to have gotten your team there. Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon is getting the transiting Neptune/North Node/Chiron stellium to his Sun/Venus conjunction. That’s good for publicity, but I believe the Neptune will lead to disappointment in the Series.

Here’s Joe Maddon’s chart, courtesy of Astrodienst. He was born in Hazleton, Pa. on Feb. 8, 1954. The time is unknown.

This matchup between a Capricorn getting the good vibes of Jupiter and an Aquarius receiving the star power of transiting North Node/Neptune/Chiron on his Sun is similar to the NCAA college basketball showdown between Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self, a Cap, and Memphis coach John Calipari, born under the sign of the Water Bearer. As you’ll recall, Kansas was victorious in that contest and I think the Phillies will be too.

If you’re a Phillies fan, check out this funny photo of the team’s mascot, the Phillie Phanatic.

Election 2008: Trick or Treat?

When I started this blog, I decided to call it Astrology Mundo (world) in the hopes of taking a broad view and attracting readers and commenters from all over the world. Obviously, my mandate is limited by the fact that this is an English-language blog.

As we count down to the U.S. election, a lot of allegations about the candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, are spreading like wildfire through the blogosphere, and I don’t want to get burned. I’m interested in truth and transparency, but I’m not going to be the vehicle to spread rumors. Therefore, I’m not approving comments that appear to be motivated purely by political concerns, despite my desire to be broad-minded.

For the record: I don’t know who will win the Presidential election. Because of the aspect between revolutionary Uranus and restrictive Saturn that is exact on Election Day, there could be an “upset” of some kind.

The potential for a grand deception or a perfect storm also exists, as Mars in Scorpio will be squaring a stellium of Neptune, Chiron, and North Node in Aquarius, as Neptune turns direct.

Ray Merriman, the dean of financial astrology, decided to stop talking about the election in recent weekly columns because of the angry e-mails he was getting from folks who disagree with him. He’s got a forecast up this week, though, that reverses his earlier prediction that McCain will win.

His feeling is that Obama has become more Saturnian (responsible, conservative) and McCain more erratic (Uranus) as we’ve moved closer to the election.

As I mentioned earlier this year, I was fascinated by the premise of the underrated Kevin Costner film Swing Vote. In that movie, the Republicans start acting like Democrats and the Democrats espouse policies normally associated with the GOP, all in an effort to win the vote of one man (Costner).

Since the financial crisis erupted on Sept. 9, the Republicans have pushed through a program of government intervention that appears to take a page from the Democrats’ playbook. Although Congress, at the behest of President George Bush and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, has spearheaded what I’ve dubbed “welfare for Wall Streeters,” Republican voters continue to rail about possible “socialism” under Democrat Obama. They don’t seem to understand that government control of our financial system is accelerating under a Republican Administration.

As Nancy’s Blog has astutely observed, the culture wars are back in full force as Pluto makes its last pass through Sagittarius before entering Capricorn for good on Nov. 27. So the fur is going to continue to fly.

Rest assured, though, the Saturn/Uranus opposition will be informing politics for the next few years. If McCain and his vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin win the election with their “maverick” persona, the people will react in a Saturnian (conservative) way.

Likewise, if Obama is elected, I predict he will be too conservative for his supporters, who may be disillusioned as Neptune conjuncts the U.S. Moon in Aquarius during the next two years. Indeed, the financial crisis and the amount of money pledged to prop up the fragile banking system may put the kibosh on any plans that Obama had to bolster social welfare. This typically means using government money to improve services for seniors, children, the disabled, and the needy.

A huge problem with both candidates, who are in overdrive trying to woo Main Street with a populist (from populi, Latin for the “voice of the people”) message: The political system in the U.S. and our politicians are beholden to powerful corporations.

Sure, I think it’s great that Joe Biden is from Scranton, my Dad’s gritty hometown. Trouble is, Biden represents Delaware in the Senate and has strong ties to the credit-card companies based in that state that have raped consumers with interest rates of 30%.

As informed voters know, McCain was caught up in the savings-and-loan scandal of the late 1980s and was one of the Keating Five, a group of Senators punished by their colleagues for improper conduct in connection with Charles Keating, the former head of Lincoln Savings and Loan. The New York Times has also exposed McCain’s ties to lobbyists from the Indian casino gambling industry.

While candidates of all political stripes go out of their way to cast themselves as ordinary guys and gals for fear of being labeled part of the “elite,” the reality is they are dutiful servants of our plutocracy.

With Pluto in Capricorn, the bottom line is: We’re all on our own. Our government will not be able to help us — either because it goes bankrupt trying to honor its overly optimistic financial promises or because it’s dismantled by radicals on the right or the left, or by a fringe coalition.

It’s interesting when you read about home-schooling and private school vouchers, both of which take kids out of public schools, to see that supporters range from conservative Christians to lefty tree-huggers.

Sarah Palin’s fellow travelers in the Alaska Independence Party, who are working for the state’s secession from the Union, are the harbingers of this anti-government sentiment on a federal level. What’s going to be amusing is when the folks who have been preaching that it’s time to “get government off our backs” will be begging for handouts. It’s going to get ugly, no matter who is elected.

Still, the optimist in me says we’ll go back to the spirit of Yankee mutual aid celebrated by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. A case in point: When I was recently was cat-sitting for a friend in New York City, I discovered a whole lending library of books that the co-op has in the basement. At least people the people in that building will have something to read after the local library shuts down because of government cutbacks.

So build and cultivate your networks (the U.S. Moon in Aquarius), folks. But that’s what’s going to get you through the next four years, no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Addendum: I was Googling trying to find a de Tocqueville quote about volunteerism and mutual aid and I stumbled upon this one, which is quite apt as the Bush Administration starts talking about the need for another government stimulus package with the election less than a month away:

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.

McCain’s ‘New’ Chart: The View From Brazil

Here’s Gian Paul’s analysis of the natal horoscope of GOP Presidential candidate John McCain, using the new birth time of 6:25 p.m. on Aug. 29, 1936 in Colon, Panama. The data comes from a State Dept. document that has suddenly surfaced on the Internet as Mercury is preparing to go direct.

You may recall that in his first post for Astrology Mundo, Gian Paul predicted that McCain will be the next President. (See “Why McCain Will Win: The View From Brazil”). He’s not backing away from that theory. Here’s why:

I gave McCain’s “new” chart a test run using three events in the man’s life. I will even speculate on the next one, which will take place on Nov. 4.

1) McCain escaped a serious explosion on the aircraft carrier Forrestal on July 29, 1967. Although there were several casualties, he escaped with his life. The North Node/Moon was then transiting his Uranus. Jupiter was conjunct his natal Mars in the sixth house of health in the latest chart. Nice protection health-wise!

2) McCain was shot down on Oct. 26 1967, and captured by the North Vietnamese, as he recently reminded us by addressing voters as “my fellow prisoners.” What’s striking to me is that McCain has Saturn retrograde at 20 degrees of Pisces in his first house.

Because this house represents the physical body, it is not unexpected that he would become a prisoner of some sort at one or seven several times in his life. The question now: Has he become a “prisoner” of Sarah Palin, his vice-presidential nominee?

The transits of when McCain was grounded and was captured also provide support for the new chart. The Moon (change) was transiting his Pluto in Cancer and the fifth house. I interpret this as “an end to creativity and play.” As a prisoner of war, McCain could hardly think of having children!

Venus, being exactly conjunct his natal Neptune in in the seventh house of relationships an marriage, indicates that at some time Venusian “aspirations” would have to be relegated to the realm of fantasy.

3) On Mar. 14, 1973, McCain was released by the North Vietnamese. The Sun was then transiting his troublesome retrograde Saturn in the first. The Moon, again over his Pluto in the fifth house, was this time accompanied by a strong and favorable transit of Jupiter to his natal Moon in the 12th house of forced confinements.

From my point of view, these three events amply confirm that this time we have the correct birth time for McCain.

Concerning Nov. 4, Election Day: I prefer using 0 hours of Nov. 5, for practical reasons. By then, the entire U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, will have had its say.

I will restrict my interpretation exclusively to McCain and his current chart, using transits of zero hour of the day after.

The man is in for trouble, first with women, than with an enormous load of responsibilities. I believe that McCain will be your next President in an extremely trying world.

Let me explain: Saturn is exactly opposite his natal Saturn. A new half-cycle (Saturn) is starting. As Saturn is also closing in to conjunct his Venus in Virgo (not a comfortable aspect), I presume that some “feminine stresses” are to be expected.
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Confirming this is a square of transiting Venus to his natal Saturn/Venus opposition, forming a T-square. If he gets elected with Palin, he will have to deal with two women, at least — his wife and his vice-president. We’ll see how that will work out.

But transiting Venus is in McCain’s 10th house. On Nov. 5, it will have just completed a conjunction with his Jupiter in Sagittarius, the ruler of his natal chart. (According to my style of astrological interpretation, a planet in its ruling sign becomes the chart’s “governor.”)

Another salient transit on Nov. 4-5: The Moon is exactly over his natal Moon, in
Aquarius, and Sarah Palin is an Aquarius.

One last point: Uranus, which turns direct on Nov. 27, will exactly conjunct McCain’s Saturn in the first house around Jan. 20, 2009, Inauguration Day. He may finally feel free from the restrictions of Saturn. Being the boss can do that for you.

Or he may feel imprisoned by the media circus (Uranus) that surrounds his new jail at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!