Women on Top: Venus Retrograde Tales


March 25, 2009

As Venus continues its passage backward through Aries, women are in the news in surprising ways.

Saudi Arabia
In the past few weeks, King Abdullah, 85, has sacked the head of the Mattawa, or religious police, and the minister of justice, who were noted for terrorizing women, and especially for leaving more than 100 schoolgirls locked in a burning residence hall to die because they weren’t properly attired. As if this weren’t enough, he introduced a number of reforms that will equalize the education of men and women. First, he named Nora al-Fayez his deputy education minister, making her the first women to climb so high in Saudi history. Then, he appointed progressive son-in-law Faisal bin Abdullah as minister of education, charged specifically with modernizing the school system toward equalization. (Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, March 30, 2009)

North Korea
Two US reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were arrested at the border with China before dawn on March 17 and charged with spying. It is interesting that a male cameraman traveling with the women was not detained. Since the US has no diplomatic ties with North Korea, the Swedes are requested consular access with the detained women on behalf of the US. (The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, March 25, 2009)

Roxana Saberi, an American-Iranian student and reporter, is in the news lately. She was arrested on January 31 (before Venus turned retrograde) for practicing journalism after her press credential had been revoked. Although Iran assured US officials earlier in March that she would be released soon, they now say that she will be detained indefinitely. Her father has been permitted contact with her in recent weeks, and now the US State Department is requesting consular access for her with the Swiss government to monitor her well-being and negotiate her release. (The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, March 25, 2009)

United States
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to make headlines by supporting sane, humane foreign policy initiatives, including owning up to the responsibility that the US bears in contributing to Mexico’s civil war. Top leaders from the US have become fully present to this issue, as Secretary Clinton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Attorney General Eric Holder give face time to Mexican President Felipe Calderon. (And by the way, the right is still targeting her.) (Andrea Mitchell, on The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, March 25, 2009)

In a state where prostitution is (in many locales) legal, a budget-balancing $5 tax is proposed for each prostitution service provided. (NPR.org, March 24, 2009)

When Venus is retrograde, conventional wisdom says that this is a “bad time for women”. However, energy is energy, and it is there to be used. It will work better for some than others. All we can say is that women are making advances toward true equality: They can be leaders or political prisoners — or be taxed for business activities — on a par with men.

© Terry Lamb

We’re All Secretaries Now: AIG and the Growing Challenge to Corporatism

March 17, 2009

Back in my 20s, I found myself from time to time in a job as a “secretary” (now dressed up as “administrative assistant”). I quickly learned how challenging such a position could be, then later as the concept of job stress emerged, I learned how secretarial positions rank pretty far up the stress scale, because they trap the hapless employee in a position of responsibility without authority. I suspect this is true of nearly all customer service positions as well.

So when AIG announced that it was issuing $165m in “retention awards” to the Financial Products Unit (the ones that brought the whole economy down through their approval of high-risk credit default swaps), I got that old familiar feeling of being a secretary again. This on top of the $440K party, the $86K executive fox-hunting trip to the UK (outrageous in itself), and who-knows-how-much to hire four PR firms to spin us into liking them.

Money Without Strings — Time to Par-tay!!!
Last September, the Federal Reserve Bank acted within its authority to loan $85bn to AIG. Without us propping them up, AIG would not exist. We should note that this is not a part of TARP nor of any bailout funds approved by Congress, but a 24-month loan arranged by the Fed.

When our naive Fed made the loan, they assumed that AIG would act responsibly and in the interests of the American people (HA!), a laughable extension of the “free-market fundamentalism” that has been nearly thoroughly discredited. The loan was granted with few strings attached, and certainly none regarding employee compensation. However, the purpose of the loan is stated in the letter announcing the loan as,
. . . to assist AIG in meeting its obligations as they come due. This loan will facilitate a process under which AIG will sell certain of its businesses in an orderly manner, with the least possible disruption to the overall economy.

However AIG got plenty of those too, though with more restrictions, to a total of $170bn. The result: Now the government owns 80% of AIG. That’s you and me — we own 80% of this donkey.

But still, the government (Treasury, Congress) has asked for no control and little oversight over the corporation. Evidently, the dreaded ghost of nationalization looms too large for us to consider it. This brings us to that old, bad feeling of responsibility without authority: We have to pay for it, but we have no control over how the money is used or what the outcome will be. We are all secretaries to AIG.

We May Not Be Secretaries for Long.
The money is clearly NOT meant to be used for employee bonuses. However, can anything be done to stop it? Tim Geithner (who incidentally was head of the NY Fed when it doled out the cash) has said that nothing can be done through legal channels. AIG says its hands are tied — it has to honor the contracts. What’s more, AIG refuses to produce a list of names of those receiving bonuses. The message from AIG to the government (that means us): “Get stuffed.”

However, other sources are not so sure. Senator Arlen Specter thinks the awards violate public policy and would not stand up in court. Congress isn’t waiting, however. There are two bills afoot to tax the bonuses at a high rate, one with a tax rate of 100%! We may not be beholding to AIG for long.

This is a classic David-vs.-Goliath struggle of the behemoth corporation against the people it has victimized. As Pluto, in the second year of its Capricorn transit, slows to a near stop before its retrograde (apparent backward motion) begins on April 4, let’s call this the opening salvo in the battle to take the government of the US people to be by and for the people once again, instead of bought and paid for by big business.

© Terry Lamb

News Flash: Saturn Sends Signals to Earth!


March 11, 2009

You humans have been very naughty. Ignoring your own long-term well-being for instant gratification. That is so Mars and Jupiter! Now you’re set on self-destruct, and it’s time for me to assert myself, so that you begin to take your long-term prospects into account when making decisions. Just to ensure that I get your attention, I’ve made an arrangement with Uranus. You can bet we’ll be sure to disrupt your lives until you shift your old, bad habits. And just in case you were in doubt as to my sincerity, you can expect to hear from me many times in the coming years. In celebration of my stay in Virgo, the first problems you must address are health care and the health of Planet Earth.”

So says Saturn, just in time for the peak in his yearly cycle, which occurred on March 8. Here are his talking points:

Get real on health care. The current “fend for yourself” health care offered in the US right now is a massive drain on the economy and couldn’t be more inefficient. The health insurance industry has brought us all to our knees. Health insurance premiums have gone up 20% in the past year, and the insurance companies are digging in, refusing to recognize, or care about, the massive inequities in how healthcare is doled out in this country. (Reported by Ed Schultz, 3/10/09)

Don’t use the economic downturn as a reason to put off health care reform. It is a primary reason for the downturn, and as people lose their jobs, the numbers of uninsured will skyrocket. This is a disaster waiting to happen. It will place a crushing economic burden on state and local governments to fill in the gap. The current health care system is a disincentive for travelers. Many who could travel to the US and pump valuable dollars into the American economy will not because they fear for their financial well-being if they should experience illness or injury while in the States. Many American citizens find it cheaper and just as supportive of their health to go to foreign countries for health care. The time for health care reform is now.

• It’s also time to take responsibility for your own health. Those who leave their health in the hands of another person and completely abdicate their responsibilities will suffer more and experience poorer health. This means eating well, exercising, and knowing as much as you can about what makes your body work the way it does. Passively letting your doctor tell you what to do on the basis of tests will no longer cut it. You need to stand up for yourself, become informed, and make your own health care decisions with you as the lead member and most active proponent of your health care team. According to the Gallup-Healthways Project, Americans are eating fewer healthy foods, exercising less, and increasing unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drinking since the economic downturn began last year. Now, anyone can tell you that fruits and vegetables are cheaper than cigarettes and alcohol, and a walk around the block is free. If you recognize yourself making unhealthy choices, it’s time to get back on the bandwagon.

Get off the gas-guzzlers. Sure, maybe you can’t do it now, but if you have two cars, drive the one that is more fuel-efficient when only one car is needed. Walk or bike when possible (this gives you a two-fer, since you’re getting exercise too). But don’t think for a minute that your responsibility ends here. The biggest polluters are in business and industry. Seek out the polluters and help them see the errors of their ways.

Saturn has indicated that he will issue more memos in the future. He will be watching and sending signals to each of us. Don’t forget that his current companion, Uranus, has the ability to shock us into new awareness if we are lagging behind the curve.

C’mon! You know this is good for you! Remember Saturn’s mantra, “Think long term, think long term.” You’ll get rewards that stick with you, provide the foundation for your next enterprise. How bad is it if you have great health? What’s not to like?

Saturn promises an update on how we’re doing on April 5, with a new global bulletin on May 16.

© Terry Lamb

From a Culture of Selfishness to Mutual Support: Venus Retrograde in Aries


March 3, 2009

We can see it in stock market traders, Wall Street bankers, and partisan politicians, but it exists in all of us somewhere: We all have our selfish interests. It is particularly stark in investors who whine about the restrictions they’ll have to endure under Obama’s economic plan and new regulations. They claim that they won’t be able to live without the world the way it used to be, where they could play the stock market like a casino. Poor little babies.

Now, it’s certainly true that there is some real anguish among people who invested their hard-earned wages in a 401(k) and have seen its value vanish. But it is notable how (some of) those who live off the wage-earners are now shedding crocodile tears and threatening to take their football and go home because the game is changing so that now they have to play by some rules. Last week, financial reporter Rick Santelli’s rant against helping out homeowners in need failed to recognize the negative impact these homes had on their neighborhoods and overall economy — or himself — even before we get to community mindedness. Instead he was caught up in the arrogance of his own selfish interests, because he is all that matters to him. The deepest irony of this situation is the fact that traders and bankers have already had their bailout (and are set to get more), and it seems they are eager to deny one to the people beyond Wall Street.

Venus to the Rescue!
This petulance is worthy of lower life forms, and while some might argue that traders fit into this category, even they are capable of rising above such toxic beliefs. So, here comes Venus to the rescue, in the form of its retrograde in Aries, which starts March 6. When Venus is retrograde, we get a chance to go deeper into a human weakness that blocks true interconnectedness between us. As this is occurring, the pattern that needs to be changed comes out in emphasized form. This is what we have been seeing over the past few weeks, especially the past week.

In the US chart, Venus will trigger three important planets — those that are largely associated with the US’s largesse: Sun, Venus, and Jupiter. There is no doubt that this will bring out moodiness and self-centeredness in the American public (as well as Congress), and this will be reflected in the stock market. As the stock market continues to go down, some are blaming Obama instead of observing the psychology behind the behavior. It’s like daddy has imposed some new rules on the kids, and they are pouting and throwing a temper tantrum. If daddy holds firm on the rules, they’ll eventually calm down and abide, even benefit, by them.

Selfishness Comes from Fear.
Underneath all the rhetoric is fear. No matter where it’s coming from, selfishness is based on the fear of not getting enough. There’s plenty of fear to go around, and I am sympathetic to those who are experiencing fear during this economic downturn, and this is all of us. During Venus’s retrograde, if we set aside our fears and instead reach out to others in community, we will be rewarded and help to push the world of human experience into the new economy of mutual support.

Are We There Yet?
We can expect the shift from selfishness to play out in several arenas over the coming three months as the retrograde cycle unfolds. Perhaps unwittingly, the Whiners of Wall Street will try to take the stock market down with them in an effort to extort concessions from the new administration. We will certainly see the stock market reach a new bottom during this time, and it may be an absolute bottom for this cycle. In the meantime, the stimulus package is going to begin to work. By the time the Venus retrograde ends on April 17, we’ll be entering our new economy and an 18-month transition. Let the recovery begin!

© Terry Lamb