Tag Archives: same-sex marriage

Let Me Recognize the Problem So it Can Be Solved

Dear Friend and Reader:

Working with my collaborators at Planet Waves, I set out on a mission of finding signs of progress amidst the many strange and tragic news events of 2013. Americans, as a lot, are people averse to following current events, and when we do, we rarely look back in an honest way.

It’s true, there’s hardly time these days. Yet part of not looking back means not remembering what we’ve learned in the past, not taking advantage of our mistakes. It sounds good to praise the power of now, but that serves little purpose if you forget a discovery about yourself that you made a day or a week ago and never put it to use.

Planet Waves
Butters prays to the all-knowing NSA, asking for protection for his friends, his family and even Cartman. Image: South Park Studios.

By many accounts, we are alive in a momentous era in history, and events of 2014 are going to ramp this up by a few orders of magnitude. Astrology describes this scenario in a longterm aspect called the Uranus-Pluto square, part of a cycle that you can trace back through history and observe the upheavals, revolutions and transformations of society. This one pattern is enough to shake up any skeptic who claims astrology isn’t real.

The last time we experienced a major phase of this cycle was in the mid-1960s, when Uranus and Pluto formed a conjunction. It’s only in hindsight that we can see the positive developments of that era. Yes, it was an exciting time to be alive if you were not wracked with anxiety or paranoia. There was great music, better drugs than we have today and the social environment was far less uptight. Many people felt the calling to get involved politically. Yet sadly, many look back and describe their experiences of that era as empty.

There were also the assassinations of many progressive leaders, and while that was happening, tens of thousands of 18-year-old boys were being shipped to Vietnam and coming home in flag-draped coffins a year later, or soaked with dioxin and terror three years later. Many people lost close friends, boyfriends, fathers, husbands and brothers to a war that just about everyone now admits was a pointless disaster. Yet who stands up to the equally corrupt, profit-driven war machine today? Do you?

Mars retrograde in Libra is going to send a jolt of energy through the Uranus-Pluto square, and precipitate many events long in development.

In searching for the positive, just about everything fell into one category — the revelation or acknowledgment of a problem that had been previously concealed or denied. The main developments seemed to be evidence of people waking up to injustice in one form or another.

There is a lesson in the workbook for A Course in Miracles that is titled, “Let me recognize the problem so it can be solved.” It begins, “A problem cannot be solved if you do not know what it is. Even if it is really solved already you will still have the problem, because you will not recognize that it has been solved. This is the situation of the world. The problem of separation, which is really the only problem, has already been solved. Yet the solution is not recognized because the problem is not recognized.” [Full text of lesson.]

Problem 1: NSA Spying Is Unconstitutional

In June, a man named Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the Obama administration had expanded the program of spying on the American people, created by the Bush administration. This caused an actual fuss.

Snowden, fearing for his life and his freedom and preferring not to be tortured, went first to Hong Kong, then to Moscow, where Vladimir Putin gave him a visa to stay for a year.

Various courts have litigated the program and in logic befitting Alice in Wonderland, managed to find it constitutional.
Then in late December, a federal judge named Richard Leon came out and said the obvious: the program is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Planet Waves
Judge Richard Leon. Photo from Suffolk University Law School.

That is the one that supposedly guarantees that the American people shall be secure in their papers and their possessions, which will be subject to search only with warrant specifically naming the thing to be seized.

Leon was appointed by Pres. George W. Bush, which may seem a little strange — but a true conservative believes in following the Constitution, and federal judges are appointed for life to make it possible for them to think with their own minds.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Judge Leon wrote in a 68-page ruling. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

We contacted Judge Leon’s chambers to get his date of birth, so we could look at his chart. The court clerk said that we could have the data as long as we promised to keep it private. So I will not be publishing the chart, but I can tell you about his chart. Judge Leon has a conjunction of the Sun and Chiron in Sagittarius, the sign of the higher courts. Sagittarius is a sign known for its guts and its love for freedom. Sun conjunct Chiron is the very image of a maverick willing to hold Big Daddy government accountable.

Sun-Chiron in Sagittarius emphasizes teacher of ethics quality of Chiron. Mars conjunct Saturn in Virgo is someone who actually cares about the details, and who doesn’t want to be pushed around.

With a little tuning up, it’s easy to get a potential birth time, which emphasizes his willingness to take responsibility (Nessus rising, ‘the buck stops here’, in Taurus based on truly-held values) and that characterizes his nature as a public figure who wants to keep some vestige of privacy in his own life by not publishing his private data. It’s also interesting that he trusted us enough not to — that tells you something about him.

“He loves Beethoven and he loves rock-and-roll,” Richard Hauser, a vice president and assistant general counsel at Boeing, as well as a former law partner of Leon’s, told The Washington Post. Now that explains everything.

Judge Leon’s ruling will work its way up through the D.C. circuit appellate court and most likely to the Supreme Court. Whether it’s upheld or not, the ruling was a shock to all the apologists who made excuses for how it was ok to mass harvest data, including for example MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, who really seems to think that we’re being spied on for our own good.

The same week, a panel commissioned by Pres. Obama recommended that the president remove NSA authority over phone data, leave it in the hands of private companies, and put the NSA under civilian control.

We are very close to recognizing this is a problem. Why most people don’t get angry about it is interesting, and can be explained by the idea that someone cares enough to listen to them. I proposed this in one of my columns, and then South Park noticed the same thing and used the concept in an episode from September (Let Go, Let Gov), featuring Butters praying to the NSA for the protection of his friends. NSA spying plays into a God complex that both the government and its citizens have. At its essence this is a spiritual problem.

Problem 2: Government-Subsidized Minimum Wage

In 2013, protests about below-poverty wages erupted outside fast food restaurants and big box stores like Walmart. It actually made the news when Walmart suggested that employees donate food to one another so they could have a good Thanksgiving.

Planet Waves
Fast food workers stage a protest against McDonald’s outside one of its restaurants in NYC. Photo by Eduardo Munoz.

One of my favorite facts of the year is that megacorporations that pay minimum wage (and often, minimum taxes) have massive numbers of employees on public assistance. An astounding 52% of McDonald’s employees receive food stamps or other forms of public assistance, costing the government $1.2 billion a year, while the company makes $5.46 billion in profits.

McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson is paid $6,875 an hour. Were he paid the federal minimum wage, he would have to work 1.89 million hours a year.

Conglomerate Yum! Brands comes in second place for pumping the government, with Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC eating $648 million in public assistance; Subway is next, costing $436 million, Burger King $356 million, Wendy’s $278 million and so on. Fast food corporations chiseling their employees costs the government $3.8 billion each year.

It is good news that we know this. It makes it a lot easier to see that those who advocate for “free market” capitalism are full of shit. This kind of information may take a little time to sink in, and it has to sink in deeper than the public’s addiction to fat, salt, sugar, cheap meat and carbs, but it still counts for raising consciousness.

Problem 3: Monsanto (and it’s now a household word)

I have covered the crimes of Monsanto since 1991, so it’s always been a household word wherever I live — and a secret just about every place else. This year, Monsanto came under the spotlight after a worldwide protest was called against the agricultural nightmares it creates.

Planet Waves
March Against Monsanto — the first-ever global protest against a company — in Venice Beach, CA. Photo by Lizanne Webb.

On May 25, the March Against Monsanto was staged, with protests in cities around the world. While this was not exactly the Occupy movement, it was a miracle that people came out to protest a corporation that until recently was known mostly to farmers and people who visited Disney World as a kid.

The battle over labeling genetically modified foods did not go well, but it’s now on the surface of awareness. On the eve of the March Against Monsanto, 71 senators voted against an amendment that would have guaranteed states the right to enact mandatory GMO labeling laws. Meanwhile, the FDA tried to run interference on state labeling, saying that it could not conflict with federal labeling regulations. It all comes down to money, and everyone involved in the issue knows that.

One problem is the bribery known as campaign contributions. One of GMO’s biggest apologists, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, received $739,926 in campaign contributions from agriculture firms in 2012, which would give her a reason to chirp endless lies about how wonderful GMO crops are, how they resist disease and feed the poor and resist droughts. All of this is now out in the open.

One problem getting the country on board is junk food. Those who chow down on Doritos don’t really care what kind of corn it is.

Problem 4: Relationship Bigotry

We actually made some progress on this one. The Supreme Court threw out the Defense of Marriage Act, one of the most ridiculous laws ever written, passed thanks to two serial adulterers, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton.

California’s referendum allowing same-sex marriages was also upheld by the Supreme Court. There are now 17 states that allow same-sex marriage and 33 that ban same-sex marriage. That may seem lopsided, but the cat is out of the closet. The important thing is that the Supreme Court has set a precedent, and any law that is challenged could easily fall on its face.

Planet Waves
Pope Francis just likes to have fun, he loves women and he doesn’t think that the church should judge gay people.

Many places with a ban have populations that are not nearly as bigoted as their neanderthal, religious-nut politicians. Speaking of neanderthals, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and Alec Baldwin got spanked — to the tune of millions — for making homophobic comments. Baldwin lost his program after making an anti-gay slur to a photographer.
Phil Duck took a public flogging from A&E for stating in an interview with GQ magazine (among other things) that the United States has a problem with sin.

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

For additional emphasis and color, he added: “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

His apologists are saying he has a right to express his views under freedom of speech, which is true — and A&E has a right to dump him for the same reason. Let’s see if they do. It’s too bad Anything That Moves is not in print anymore — I would buy him a gift subscription.

Meanwhile in Rome, the new Roman Catholic pope even got into the act, telling reporters, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a very beautiful way, but says, wait a moment, how do you say…it says, [that] these persons must not be marginalized for this, they must be integrated into society.”

Then came the best surprise of all. In December, a federal judge ruled that laws prohibiting what the Utah law called ‘cohabitation’ — that is, a word in the statute substituting for polygamy — violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and assembly. The law said that, Clark Waddoups quoted Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, saying that the Constitution provides people with “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct.” Judge Waddoups was also appointed by George W. Bush. Go figure.

It’s worth adding a bit about Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist minister who officiated at the wedding of his gay son. He was suspended from the ministry after a church ‘trial’ in November, but he has refused to step down.

And Then There’s Us

It seems in hindsight that the collective awareness has indeed cracked open within a relatively short amount of time. Much of what I’ve just reported is indicative of raising consciousness. What seemed totally impossible just years ago is now a palpable reality. Each of these developments offers some evidence of actual change.

Planet Waves
A high school student at an anti-government protest in Paris sees her reflection in a riot officer’s shield. Photo by Eric Francis.

Yet those of us who have been aware of these problems for a while know there is still a long way to go. Fortunately, we are in the midst of an acceleration process indicated by the Uranus-Pluto square.

Awareness is a crucial first step. That’s where we are, on the verge of fully recognizing what we know. Many people are observing that an old order is dissolving. Yet for real change to happen, many individuals need to take up the work in a deeply personal way. With awareness comes the need for incredible responsibility; for a kind of impeccability.

New consciousness can start to rise, and then be blocked by old hangups, habits, the fear of change and other facets of the past weighing on people who say they want to move ahead. Progress requires more than hope and good intentions. There is the reality of the road ahead.

Those who have already treaded the path of real change for a while know how deep and dark the journey is; how uncomfortable; the extent to which any seemingly outer issue must be embraced as an inner reality in order for actual change to come. We know how much therapy, spiritual work and experience it can take to unravel deeply ingrained patterns.

It is challenging to take that kind of responsibility and do something about what we feel and see; it’s much easier to stand in dumbfounded paralysis, completely shocked and desensitized, or to entertain ourselves to death, watching events unfold like a circus. How we respond is ultimately a personal choice. The moment of decision is arriving.


— Additional writing: Chad Woodward. Additional research: Hillary Conary, Elizabeth Michaud and Len Wallick.

Note to Readers: Subscriber editions will be off next week for the Christmas holiday. We will resume subscriber editions on Friday, Jan. 3. The blogging team will be working as usual, and I plan to keep doing Planet Waves FM as I work through the 12 signs of your annual readings.

Section Writing and Editing Credits: News items below are written and edited by a team consisting of Hillary Conary, Anne Craig, Eric Francis, Elizabeth Michaud, Amanda Painter, Susan Scheck, Chad Woodward and Carol van Strum. Page assembled and coded by Anatoly Ryzhenko. Special thanks to the Fact Checkers List, which goes over each edition on Thursday night — and to our main astrology fact-checker Alex Miller, and Amanda, who goes over all their suggestions. Our editions are also proofread and fact-checked by Jessica Keet.


Planet Waves

Venus Retrograde: Something Old, Something New

We are hours away from the southern solstice, when the Sun aligns with the Tropic of Capricorn. That’s also known as the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice, or summer solstice for our readers in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Planet Waves
Sculpture by Jim Dowd made from redwood driftwood, on the Grandmother Land in High Falls, New York. Photo by Eric Francis.

For those of us on the northern side of the globe, we are pointed as far away from the Sun’s rays as we will get — therefore, we’re having the shortest days of the year. The Sun appears to rise and set at the same position on the horizon (sol + stice, the Sun seems to stand still), and if you have not noticed yet, winter begins.

The short days and seeming remoteness of the Sun create what I call a compression effect, which is sensory (fewer hours of sunlight, cloudier days, standard time imposed on us), nutritional (vitamin D starvation, unless you like super chilly nude sunbathing or supplement heavily), plus emotional and psychic, as the Earth reaches an extreme of its annual cycle. The days fly by this time of year even more swiftly than usual. It’s not just because of the holidays.

Despite the cold weather, the Earth is actually closer to the Sun this time of year. This reminds me of Ali G’s interview with Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut who accompanied Neil Armstrong to the Moon the first time people went there in 1969.

Ali G: Do you think man will ever walk on the Sun?

Buzz: No. The Sun is too hot. It’s not a good place to go to.

Ali G: What happens if they went in winter, when the Sun is cold?

Buzz: The Sun is not cold in the winter.

Entering Capricorn, the Sun jumps onto the cardinal cross, where it will make aspects to many other planets positioned there, including nascent Mars in Libra, the Uranus-Pluto square and Jupiter in Cancer.

Planet Waves
Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen) asks his ‘main man’ Buzz Aldrin whether man will ever walk on the Sun, perhaps in winter.

This year the solstice comes with a special twist — Venus stations retrograde a few hours later. Just as the Sun enters Capricorn, Venus stations retrograde in Capricorn. Venus retrograde lasts about six weeks, ending on Jan. 31.

Venus is retrograde least of all the planets, just over 7% of the time. By contrast, Mercury is retrograde 19% of the time, and it sure seems that way.

Note that this is the first Venus retrograde since the Venus transit of the Sun in June 2012 — that day when Venus could be seen walking across the surface of the Sun (even if we can’t do it, she can). Venus retrograde (or Mercury for that matter) happens when Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth.

Venus retrograde is one of those conditions that tends to evoke the past. Old lovers and friends can reappear, or you might find yourself visiting old places or remembering things that you have not thought about since you experienced them. In Capricorn this can feel nostalgic, or like family karma can be being stirred up (and it may be, especially with Pluto in the neighborhood), so make sure you wear your psychologist hat to family gatherings rather than your ‘they push my buttons’ hat.

Images of Venus retrograde in Capricorn include romantic relationships with older people (which implies older people having relationships with younger ones), spending time with older people in any context, seeing the value in prior ways of doing things, curiosity and passion for history and poring through old photos and nostalgia. (Remember this for your late holiday gift purchasing — here are some hints).

Planet Waves
Venus transit of the Sun from 2004. The corresponding event was in June 2012. The next will happen in 2117, many Venus retrogrades from now. Photo series by Anthony Ayiomamitis in Athens.

I have a theory, somewhat supported by experience, that the more unusual the astrological event, the more unusual is whatever it represents. At the end of its retrograde, Venus stations direct in Capricorn on Jan. 31; this seems to be something that happens every eight years in our era. However, for all of those Venus stations direct in Capricorn going back many decades, the retrogrades started in Aquarius and ended in Capricorn.

I had to go back to the Venus retrograde of 1802-1803 to find one that happened exclusively in Capricorn, to the days when Pres. Jefferson was in office. So we’re about to experience something that has not happened in about 210 years.

Around this time in 1802, a war between Sweden and Libya (then Tripoli) ended. In January 1803, Almanach des gourmands was published, naturally, in France — forerunner of Zagat, the first guide to restaurant cooking (the Italian restaurant had not been invented yet). The inventor of the “first practical steamboat” demonstrated his invention, in Scotland. And speaking of France, future president James Monroe headed to Paris to discuss purchasing New Orleans — and completed the Louisiana Purchase.

Venus retrograde in Capricorn will remind us that the past is not as far away as we like to think, try as we may to escape, pretend or forget what we have learned. As William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

For the coming weeks you might discover that it’s very much alive.


Planet Waves

Activists To Be Included in Russian Amnesty

An amnesty bill put forward by Russian president Vladimir Putin and passed by the Russian parliament has sparked cautious optimism among supporters of the two jailed members of the band Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace members facing trial as part of the Arctic 30.

The conviction of the punk pranksters of Pussy Riot for “hooliganism” following an anti-Putin protest staged in a Moscow cathedral, drew condemnation from free speech advocates, artists and human rights groups worldwide. The band, whose members cite the riot grrrl movement in the U.S. as an inspiration, is vocal in support of feminism, eco-awareness and LGBQT rights.

Planet Waves
Protesters calling for the release of Greenpeace activists imprisoned in Russia, on Oct. 31, 2013, in Paris. Photo by Pierre Andrieu.

Two band members were sentenced to serve two years; a third was acquitted (see Planet Waves coverage here). Both the imprisoned women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — are mothers of young children, one of the groups targeted in the amnesty bill along with minors, pregnant women, women over 55 and men over 60, the disabled, Chernobyl cleanup workers and military veterans.

The Arctic 30 members, all but one of whom have been out on bail pending trial, were facing charges stemming from an attempt to board an oil rig in September of this year. The activists, who come from 13 different nations, originally faced charges of piracy that were reduced to “aggravated hooliganism” in late October, and were facing up to seven years. (See Planet Waves coverage here.)

The amnesty is a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution,and will affect 25,000 people in all, freeing 1,300 prisoners convicted of minor offenses and relieving others of pending charges and non-custodial criminal sanctions. Supporters of the activists are holding their breath until actual freedom’s achieved.

Family members of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina say the amnesty is “too late” so close to the end of their sentences; given Tolokonnikova’s description of the conditions, however, any time shaved off imprisonment may well be precious.

In other pardon-related news, President Obama has extended an olive branch to eight federal inmates convicted on crack cocaine charges and sentenced under laws that have since been changed. Six of the eight faced life in prison. All eight are now expected to be freed within 120 days.


Planet Waves

GMO Seeds at Heart of Alleged Conspiracy to Steal Secrets

A glamorous James Bond spy story this isn’t. Yet two cases of alleged international espionage by Chinese nationals have rocked the halls of Monsanto and other biotechs, with the intellectual property contained in their GMO corn and rice at stake.

Planet Waves
Weiqiang Zhang and Yan Wengui, accused of trying to steal samples of seeds from a research facility in Kansas. Photo: Reuters.

The FBI filed two separate cases last week. In one, Mo Hailong, also known as Robert Mo, a Chinese citizen lawfully residing in Miami, was the alleged head of a plot to steal GMO corn seeds and send them back home to his employer, Kings Nower Seed, a subsidiary of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Company.

For several years, Mo drove around Iowa and other Midwest states in rented cars, with a changing cast of Chinese companions — followed by FBI agents down dusty back roads — stopping at secret test fields owned by Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer to gather seeds. He also bought seeds from farmers, but refused to sign the standard paperwork required by the companies for their use.

Mo has been jailed in Florida, awaiting transfer to Iowa where the charges were filed. He has not yet been indicted, according to his attorney, who says the FBI cannot prove the seeds were proprietary property of Monsanto or DuPont.

Mo may have had help from “several potential ‘insiders’ at U.S.-based seed companies,” said the FBI. These individuals may have provided Mo and his alleged co-conspirators with information on where the companies were growing seeds from an “inbred line.” Inbred lines are the parents of the hybrid corn that seed companies sell to farmers, and are patented.

“Pioneer executives estimated that the loss of an inbred line of seed would result in losing approximately 5-8 years of research and a minimum of $30-40 million,” the FBI filing stated.

In Kansas, charges were also filed last week against Weiqiang Zhang, a Chinese lawful permanent resident of the U.S., accused of stealing genetically modified rice  from Colorado-based Ventria Bioscience and providing the seeds to scientists in China.

From a letter filed with the court documents, Zhang — a Ventria agricultural seed breeder who got the rice from a company farm in Kansas where he worked — apparently was angling for a job in a research facility in China, and thought access to Ventria’s technology might make him an attractive candidate.

Planet Waves
Monsanto Co. DeKalb brand seed corn sits on a pallet at a farm in Princeton, Illinois. Photo by Daniel Acker.

It’s unclear whether anyone in China asked him for the seeds, although he was also accused of handing them to agricultural officials from China. A second man, Wengui Yan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has been named as a co-defendant in the case.

The Chinese are in a hot debate over allowing GMOs into their food supply. The general public strongly opposes it, while government officials see it as an answer to their country’s expanding food needs. China has been importing GM soybeans since 1997, and also allows the import of some varieties of genetically modified corn, though both are subject to strict controls. GM corn and soy are only approved for processing into soy oil, soymeal and animal feed, not direct human consumption.

In November 2009, the agricultural ministry issued bio-safety certificates to two strains of pest-resistant GMO rice and one variety of corn, approving them for use on experimental plots. Commercial planting of GMO crops is strictly prohibited, thought to be due to the government’s concern with fierce public opposition.

“China doesn’t need to develop GMO. If we cultivate land well and waste less feed (don’t throw dead pigs into rivers), China’s agriculture can feed the Chinese people,” Gu Xiulin, a Yunnan University of Finance and Economics processor, wrote on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging website similar to Twitter. “GMO is a magic knife that can annihilate mankind and destroy the environment… don’t be fooled.”


Planet Waves

Targeting Target — and Possibly You

As many as 40 million people who used credit and debit cards at Target stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 may have had their private banking information stolen, the corporation revealed in a notice to consumers released on Dec. 19.

Planet Waves
If only the dog had stolen the card numbers, shoppers would still be okay; most dogs can’t read or type that well.

The theft, first reported by Krebsonsecurity.com and confirmed by Target’s CEO one day later, took place at brick-and-mortar Target stores across the United States and involved the data encoded in the magnetic strip that’s swiped through card-reading machines. Thieves of the data would be able to use it to create counterfeit cards. Online transactions at Target.com were apparently not affected.

Data that may have been stolen during the breach includes names, card numbers, expiration dates and three-digit security codes.

Target advises all customers who used major credit or debit cards or Target store cards during the period when security was breached to watch their statements for any suspicious transactions, and says it is working with a “leading third-party forensics firm” as well as major financial institutions and the Secret Service to investigate the matter fully.

The news comes at an inauspicious time for Target, whose executives recently reported great success in enticing consumers to sign up for its own store credit cards.


Planet Waves

Year in Review: Abortion Rights and Women’s Reproductive Health

The Guttmacher Institute has not yet released its comprehensive ‘year in review’ report detailing the setbacks and advancements in women’s heath care policies and abortion rights in the United States. But Guttmacher’s midyear report painted a clear picture for the first half of the year, one easily extrapolated with some highlights (and lowlights) from the full year.

Planet Waves
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis voting against a motion during her filibuster. ‘V’ is also for ‘victory’; as temporary as hers was, it empowered pro-choice activists. Photo by Eric Gay.

During the first half of 2013, state legislators enacted 43 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion.

“Although this is significantly lower than the record-breaking 80 restrictions that had been enacted by this point in 2011,” notes the Guttmacher Institute, “it is nonetheless a higher number of restrictions than in any year other than 2011 and as many as enacted in all of 2012.” (Emphasis added.)

The report also notes that, “Although initial momentum behind banning abortion early in pregnancy appears to have waned, states nonetheless adopted myriad restrictions on access to abortion. However, this year is notable also for positive action on other reproductive health issues in a few states, including important new provisions enacted to expand access to comprehensive sex education, expedited partner treatment for STIs and emergency contraception for women who have been sexually assaulted.”

2013 began with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January, the landmark Supreme Court decision upon which abortion rights in the U.S. are founded. According to Democracy Now! a poll at that time indicated that for the first time on record, a majority of Americans (70%) opposed overturning Roe v. Wade.

Much of the lawmaking this year indicated otherwise, although in March a federal judge struck down a 2011 Idaho law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. At the time, it was believed to be the first such instance of a federal court ruling such a law to be unconstitutional; abortion rights supporters hoped it would set a legal precedent for challenges to similar laws in other states.

In fact, a kind of legal back-and-forth actually looks like a hallmark of 2013, with a noticeable trend of federal judges blocking (even if temporarily) extreme and potentially unconstitutional abortion restrictions in a number of states including North Dakota, Alabama, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Mississippi.

The harshest anti-abortion bill in a decade to come before the U.S. Congress was approved by the House in June. Pres. Obama vowed to veto the bill and it got no traction in the Senate, but its appearance at all raises a red flag. The previous week, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), pissed off many when he remarked that the number of pregnancies resulting from rape is “very low” — as though only rape survivors deserve choice over their pregnancies and bodies (but only after being violated first).

Planet Waves
Opponents to an abortion bill in the Senate chamber as Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters against the abortion bill. Photo by Eric Gay.

Perhaps the most memorable highlight for pro-choice activists also came in June: Texas state senator Wendy Davis helmed an 11-hour filibuster of a bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization and imposed harsh regulations that would have closed nearly all abortion clinics in Texas.

Sadly, the bill was passed in a special legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry — but not before hundreds of people on both sides gave public testimony, highlighted by Katie Heim’s “If my vagina was a gun” poem.

Hopes were raised in October, when one federal judge ruled parts of the Texas law unconstitutional — only to be dashed the next month, when a federal appeals court reinstated the law.

On a slightly different tack, just last month Michigan became the ninth stateto require insurance companies to charge additional fees to women for abortion coverage, often referred to as “rape insurance.” (Planet Waves coverage here).

In November and December, we’ve had some mixed birth-control news. On the one hand, the Guttmacher Institute has released a report showing that the Affordable Care Act is getting something right, enabling a significant wave of women to receive birth control without paying a copay. However, the Supreme Court also recently announced it will hear claims by two for-profit companies that think they should be able to deny employees birth control under their insurance plans. (Planet Waves coverage here.)

In short, we’re still trying to prove that women are people and corporations are not. It will take more than luck to make 2014 the year that we do, and full-on vigilance to ensure Roe v. Wade stays intact — along with its predecessor, Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized birth control.

For an outline of major abortion law developments, use this link; or access all 2013 Democracy Now! headlines and stories on the topic here.


Planet Waves

Planet Waves

Your Capricorn Solstice Tunes

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, the first official day of winter is Saturday as the Sun enters Capricorn. What could be a better soundtrack to your solstice rituals than the four musicians of Ethnobeat, from Irkutsk, drumming on the thick, melodic ice of Lake Baikal in Siberia in this video?

Lake Baikal contains roughly 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface freshwater (presumably during the summer), making it the largest by volume (and it’s the deepest, at 5,387 feet/1,642 meters). Even better, it is thought to be the oldest lake in the world at 25 million years — and you know how much Capricorns love the past!


Planet Waves

Gemini Full Moon: Federal Judge Rules Against NSA

Link to program.

In this week’s edition of Planet Waves FM, I cover Tuesday morning’s Gemini Full Moon and the revelation that came with it: there is a federal judge who was willing to go on the record and say that the NSA spying program is unconstitutional. I also cover the chart for the solstice and Venus stationing retrograde. My musical guest is MISSION TO MILO.

In the program, I reference the natal chart of Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on the NSA harvesting of phone records. You can see his chart and my article about it on the blog of The Mountain Astrologer on Snowden’s chart.


Planet Waves

Have you pre-ordered your 2014 readings by Eric Francis yet? The Mars Effect (our 16th annual edition!) will be out in January, and will include in-depth audio and written readings for your Sun, Moon and rising signs. We always receive a flood of positive feedback for these readings, and it shows just how meaningful they are. One customer wrote, “I’m so grateful to you for the illumination and the reassurance this reading has bestowed.” We’re offering you a special package price of $79 for all twelve signs, available only to current Planet Waves members. Or you may purchase individual signs for $19.95.


Planet Waves

Your Monthly Horoscopes — and our Publishing Schedule Notes

We published the extended monthly horoscope for December Friday, Nov. 29. Inner Space for November was published Friday, Nov. 1. Moonshine for the Sagittarius New Moon was published Tuesday, Nov. 26. We published Moonshine for the Gemini Full Moon Tuesday, Dec. 10. Please note, we normally publish the extended monthly horoscope on the first Friday after the Sun has entered a new sign; Inner Space usually publishes the following Tuesday.


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, #980 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19)

Aries (March 20-April 19) — To accept the idea that ‘this is the way things always were’ is an excuse, especially if you know the theme of your life is change. The question seems to be, will you take initiative, or are you expecting someone else to do it for you? I suggest you make your own decisions and initiate your own moves rather than expecting something in your environment will start the process. What you come up with will be a lot more interesting than what anyone else does, even if others talk louder. Just think your plan through a couple of times, especially if it’s work-related. Things are changing around you, and I suggest you see where they shake out over the next five or six days before doing anything too radical. The best idea will be a simple, easy-to-understand and, most of all, useful one.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Taurus (April 19- May 20)

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Imagine that you visit an older relative you have not seen in years, and while you’re there you wander up to the attic. You see a trunk that seems to be for you, illuminated by the light from a small window, and you open it up. It’s full of artifacts from a century ago, stuff belonging to people to whom you’re related but who came through the planet decades before you. Old diaries, letters, newspaper cuttings, photographs, physical objects from life in the past, are all neatly, lovingly preserved in this trunk, and as you go gently through them, you figure out that they were indeed intentionally left for you. But who left it there? And how did they know you would find it? This is all a metaphor, and from a psychological point of view, you’re the one who has left a gift, an inheritance or a trousseau for yourself. There’s a lot in there, as will slowly become obvious over the next month or so.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Gemini (May 20- June 21)

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Be careful not to take on the issues of others. You may be especially reactive over the next few days, especially if people around you are in an intense mood. I suggest you choose your influences and your company carefully, especially through the 24th. Don’t let anyone push you into any agreement, longterm or otherwise, that you don’t really want to make, no matter how infectious their enthusiasm or persuasion may be. Events of the next week or so will help you figure out where you really stand with yourself, and therefore, put the opinions and feelings of others into context. It is this context — remember the concept — that is essential to your making healthy decisions for yourself. You’re someone who is inclined to consider the wellbeing of others in the choices you make, so you don’t have to worry about that factor; at the moment, you cannot count on others to do so.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Cancer (June 21- July 22)

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Keep your heart and mind open and you’ll be better able to receive what others are offering you in your intimate relationships. You may sense that there’s a lot to their feelings, and you may be hesitant about allowing yourself to experience that. Phobia about intimacy, and hesitation in matters of the heart, do little to foster your happiness. Every relationship experience requires taking a risk, though in truth most of that involves allowing yourself to be vulnerable. A little self-therapy on that topic would be a great place to start. Ask yourself what you fear, when it comes to getting close to someone you care about. Is it about hurting someone else? If so, how long can you keep that up for? Or is it about the way a relationship might change your life? You already know how you feel. You know what you want. That’s actually worth something.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You may have health matters on your mind, though I don’t suggest you stress about them; stress seems to be the problem. There’s also some missing information that will clarify matters considerably, and you won’t need to wait for long. I suggest that you strictly maintain a few guidelines, however. Make all your own decisions, based on what you know and understand. That’s another way of saying pay attention, take an active role and use what you know. Don’t succumb to anyone’s authority merely for its own sake or on the assumption that someone else must know more than you do. Your vitality is what helps you heal, grow and create your environment, and all three of those elements are interrelated. Your existence is holistic — part of an integrated whole, with each aspect influencing the others. You don’t need to treat symptoms, but rather, seek deeper understanding, shift your orientation and keep reminding yourself that everything is connected.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You seem to be experiencing boldness and hesitancy at the same time. The combination, if left unaddressed, could create delays and waste energy; there’s no point spinning your wheels to get nowhere. And you have plenty of places to go, and experiences you want to have. If you have any form of mixed feelings, take the elements in the mix one at a time and see what they are trying to tell you. See if you can notice your source. The self-assertiveness you’re feeling does indeed seem to be about you; the insecurity and hesitancy seems to be coming from somewhere else, perhaps even someone’s influence from the deep past. It would not vaguely surprise me if that turned out to involve another person’s religious baggage that was leaking into your environment. In plain terms, you don’t have to worry about what others will think. You don’t have to be pure or give the image of being ‘not a slut’ to project some kind of faux conservatism. What you feel is more meaningful than what anyone else thinks.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Libra (Sep. 22 - Oct. 23)

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Venus, the planet traditionally associated with your sign, stations retrograde over the weekend. That’s a fairly rare event; no planet is retrograde less than Venus, though this event happens entirely in Capricorn, where Venus has not been exclusively retrograde since 1802. The next two months are a truly beautiful time to resolve old family issues, particularly on your father’s side of the family. The material may surface on its own; you may be aware of topics or themes that you’ve been brewing for a few years, which you’re now ready to address as a conscious choice. Please use this time well. Nothing like it will happen again for years to come. For you, making peace with the past also means understanding what happened, why it happened, and how it influenced you. Nobody is going to hand you easy answers, but you are eminently capable of putting the pieces together. Take your time; be both careful and intuitive.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You’ve got to let some of this pressure off. It seems as if you think you’re supposed to feel a certain way in certain situations, as if the ‘correct’ emotional tone were prescribed in advance. This extends to your opinions about things and the specific way you’re supposed to think. None of this is valid; much of the pressure is your attempt to respond to the illusion that it might be. I suggest you question that assumption, and consider the possibility that it has a source. Once you make the decision to express yourself rather than suppress yourself, you will feel less depressed, more alive, and more in control of your life. You may feel that to do those things, you have to change your whole way of thinking, though it’s easier and subtler than you were told, especially with the kind of cosmic support you have right now.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.



Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Consider carefully the influence you have on someone close to you — you’re a much more potent force than you may imagine. That includes on individual people and also on your total environment. You may be going through so much interesting, intense, strange or curious inner movement that you may not be noticing how it’s radiating out into the world around you. Take the time to get some feedback from others about what they perceive about you. Open up the space for a dialog and put more energy into listening than into speaking. Trust that people already get what’s on your mind. You will learn a lot from what they have to say and from slowing down enough to get a sense of what they are feeling. While this theme is focused right now, it’s going to be a recurring theme for the next two or three seasons. So, take a deep breath.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — The sky is now focused on your sign. The Sun makes its annual return to Capricorn on Saturday (the southern solstice), and just a few hours later, Venus stations retrograde in your sign. This is a combination of factors that are likely to ignite your passion, help you focus your energy and feel how strong, loving and creative you can be. The reason you can be these things is because you are them already, so this is really a matter of emphasis, and of bringing out what is already inside you. I suggest, in that spirit, that you remove as many encumbrances on your time and energy as you can for the next few weeks. Make room for yourself. Take time to reflect and to appreciate who you have become and what you’ve created for yourself. This will be a meaningful time of reflection that will have the power to shape the course of your life.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You seem to be asking yourself some deep questions about a relationship, and about the meaning of all intimate partnerships. This is not a fleeting inquiry but rather a crux point where you are finally getting to the heart of the matter. These questions involve whether you’re able to fully express your emotional needs, what kinds of commitment you’re comfortable with, and the role of marriage in your life. There is the ever-present question of negotiating your independence. This is a moment to consider all of your reasoning around the concept of permanence, and the way that it influences your emotional climate. There is also the not-so-small matter of how and why resources are exchanged. What falls under the category of an obligation, what do you feel is taken from you, what is a fair exchange and what is freely given? Once you have unpacked these subjects, you’ll find it a lot easier to relate to others in a way that is fair, and that you understand.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Take advantage of excellent opportunities to expand your income the next few weeks, beginning immediately. You already know of some prospects; there are others you have not thought of, and still others that you came up with and set aside or forgot about. You may find it easier now than ever to cast off any doubts or misgivings you have over the so-called profit motive, which you can replace with the elemental fact that your work and your ideas have value and worth to the people who get the benefits. However, you don’t even need to go there; it still has the feeling of an excuse. Look at your life, size up your resources, consider what you’re capable of doing and decide what you want to do. Develop a strategy that you adapt as necessary, but use as a guideline. In worldly terms, this should involve income for work and services provided, how to efficiently handle debt and tax-related matters, and an overall business plan. Get competent help when you need it.

Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It’s a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.


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Beyond the Comfort Zone

Dear Friend and Reader:

This was one of those weeks when it takes a team to keep up with the news. Ours has been in high-focus mode. In our prior edition, we left off right before last week’s one-two solstice-Capricorn Full Moon. Then this past Tuesday, Jupiter entered Cancer for the first time since July 12, 2001. Mercury stationed retrograde Wednesday morning, about 12 hours later. It will be retrograde till July 20.

Planet Waves
Last weekend’s Capricorn Full Moon rises over New York Harbor. Photo by Julio Cortez / AP.

Much of our current astrology involves the eminently personal sign Cancer, where energy has been concentrated around the Aries Point and, consequently, many personal transitions and upheavals over the past few days.

Cancer is a comfort zone and quite a bit of astrology has been shaking up that little refuge. Yet Jupiter’s ingress indicates some significant improvements and a stabilizing factor, which will be more noticeable after the waters of transition settle down a bit.

The public realm has been a kaleidoscope of issues, a full-on example of the 2012-era phenomenon of everything, all at once. It’s too much for most people to handle, though the events make interesting patterns. It’s one of those moments when it’s hard to tell if the world is getting better, worse, both or all three at once.

This is a dramatization of the Uranus-Pluto square — the 2012-era aspect, now at a peak of energy.

In Texas this week, Republicans continued their assault on women’s reproductive rights, attempting to close nearly all women’s health clinics and in practical terms, all but ban abortion. Under the moral leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, who was a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, they have mounted a new offensive against women. And while Perry has led the charge to “respect life” and is speaking today at the Right to Life convention, on Wednesday evening Texas executed Kimberly McCarthy, its 500th prisoner since 1976 and its 261st on Rick Perry’s 13-year watch as governor.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Texas senate tried to scam passage of the proposed law SB5, claiming the vote was concluded Tuesday before the midnight deadline rather than Wednesday after midnight. They were blocked by an actual 11-hour filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, then busted for trying to alter state documents, in part thanks to citizen reporters who live-tweeted the whole thing.

It was the perfect Mercury retrograde moment, happening about six hours before Mercury changed directions. The New York Times originally reported on its front page that the law “appeared” to pass, then the story disappeared. Perry, who says he’ll be back for another round, has among other things succeeded at reviving a comatose Democratic Party in Texas. He accused Sen. Davis of “hijacking the democratic process.”

And in comments late this week, he added: “Even the woman who filibustered in the senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances,” Perry said. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”

Planet Waves
Just hours before Mercury stationed retrograde, The New York Times published this story on its front page — then the story disappeared and was rewritten.

The implication was, she should be glad she was not aborted as a fetus. [Watch the full video here.]

China is about to dump tons of chlorofluorocarbons into the air — the stuff that damages the Earth’s protective ozone layer (please see ECO). Pres. Obama, in a big speech, finally warned the nation about global warming and promised to do something about it, nearly five years into his term.

As far as we know, NSA leaker Edward Snowden is probably still in a Moscow airport after leaving Hong Kong last week, and is awaiting a decision on political asylum that he has sought in Ecuador. WikiLeaks got itself involved, and is providing him with legal resources, assistance securing safe passage and apparently contacts in Ecuador. That put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange back into the news; he is still living in Ecuador’s London embassy.

In Florida, the murder trial of George Zimmerman is underway. He is the Neighborhood Watch guy who stalked teenager Trayvon Martin, then shot him at point blank range, claiming self-defense.

The list goes on and on — and includes four landmark decisions issued by the Supreme Court that came out this week, all of them on the general theme of ‘equality’. They all have their roots in the events of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the 1960s, to which we are energetically connected by the Uranus-Pluto square of our own era.

One of this week’s rulings involved the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which came at the end of what’s known as Jim Crow — a century-long era of institutionalized racism that persisted after slavery ended. We are still to this day working out the legacy of the global human trafficking industry, the slave trade from Africa.

In the summer of 1964, Freedom Summer to be exact, three civil rights volunteers — Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney — were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, by local Klansmen, cops and a sheriff. There were many, many other schemes to block or intimidate poor southerners from voting, from “literacy tests” to “poll taxes,” and the murders were set in that context; they were a warning.

Pres. Lyndon Johnson and Congress responded by passing the Voting Rights Act, part of which required certain states with a history of racial issues to subject any proposed changes to voting laws to pre-approval by the federal Department of Justice.

Planet Waves
Pres. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This actually worked pretty well, but the Supreme Court this week voided that provision after 48 years, claiming that Congress didn’t really know what it was doing when it reauthorized the act in 2007, that times had changed, that racism isn’t so bad now, and so on.

The court, in one of its usual (of late) swing-vote-decided 5-4 rulings, now allows states with a history of racism to proceed with their voter discrimination projects unchecked.

This change comes after many recent election cycles where one of the top issues has been the attempt to block minorities from voting through various schemes such as voter ID laws, disallowing voting on Sundays and others.

To me it seems like the law needed to be expanded in scope (to places like Ohio and Pennsylvania) rather than be eliminated.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented from the majority, accused the court of “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

In another decision, the court revised the way colleges and universities may organize their affirmative action programs, allowing the concept of diversity but saying that it had to be done in a race-neutral way. Since I no longer edit the New York Education Law Report and you’re probably not an admissions dean, I will spare you the details.

Beyond One Man and One Woman

The most celebrated decisions of the week involved same-sex marriage. As you’ve probably heard, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the first federal law to address marriage, and one that openly disparaged lesbian and gay people.

Passed during the reign of serial infidels Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, the law forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. DOMA defined marriage as exclusively between “one man and one woman.” In 1996 when DOMA was passed, same-sex marriage was not legal in any jurisdiction. This was merely a prophylactic measure.

Planet Waves
It’s the height of irony that Gingrich and Clinton created the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Both are infamous for multiple affairs, and Gingrich for serial polygamy. Photo by Ruth Fremson.

DOMA’s proponents were trying to foreclose in advance on same-sex marriage, but they also took the initiative on polyamorous (also called plural) marriage. I’ve always thought that required some foresight, though as we will read in a moment, DOMA advocates had considerably more vision than many polyamorous people.

The DOMA case that made it to the Supreme Court was actually an IRS action: a lesbian whose partner of 40 years had died was forced to pay $350,000 in federal estate taxes that she would not have paid had her marriage been recognized by the federal government.

That is to say, she was taxed $350,000 for allegedly being single. But the real equal protection issue seems to be why people get paid that much money to be married, no matter to whom. Single people pay substantially more in taxes than married people, which seems to be a direct form of discrimination, affirms the business transaction aspect of marriage, and provides a false incentive to get married.

Minutes after the DOMA ruling, the Supreme Court also ruled on California’s Proposition 8 initiative, which in 2008 banned same-sex marriage in California. This initiative was funded and supported with considerable personnel by the Mormon Church.

The situation goes back to another public initiative from 2000, called Proposition 22, which also banned same-sex marriage, but was held to violate the California state constitution. So the Mormons came back eight years later with a proposition to amend the state constitution — that was Prop 8. [The super curious and judicial freaks may find a nice timeline here.]

The story of the litigation is so complex it would take me about 1,500 words to get it right — I will skip most of it. But I will sum it up.

Planet Waves
Wedding photo of Edith Schlain Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer.

Because of Proposition 8, Kristin Perry was denied a marriage license to marry her partner Sandra Stier. So they sued then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to challenge the provision. But neither he nor anyone else in the state government was willing to defend such a ridiculous constitutional amendment.

The court system allowed the Mormon front-group inventors of Proposition 8 — Dennis Hollingsworth, the leader of ProjectMarriage.com, and a rival group, Campaign for California Families — to intervene on behalf of the state as the defendants.

After a trial, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, in a truly brilliant decision, struck down Proposition 8 on Aug. 4, 2010 for being “unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause because no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.”

What was interesting is that lawyers from both the conservative and liberal sides of the fence joined together to fight Prop 8. Lead co-counsel were Ted Olson, former solicitor general under George W. Bush, and “superlawyer” David Boies. In the famous Bush v. Gore case, Olson represented Bush and Boyes represented Gore.

The trial court decision was appealed, and the 9th Circuit appellate panel affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that Proposition 8 served no purpose “but to impose on gays and lesbians, through the public law, a majority’s private disapproval of them and their relationships.”

Planet Waves
Vaughn Walker served as a federal judge in Northern California from 1989-2011 (retiring as chief judge).

This week the Supreme Court agreed, and then it threw out the whole case on the basis that the pro-marriage groups who were acting on behalf of state officials lacked standing to be involved — and told them never to come back.

While this ruling does not make it mandatory for states to approve same-sex marriage, Conservative Philosopher King Senior Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who is no friend to gay people, gay rights or gay anything, said in a dissent that in effect, this ruling opens the way to same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

He even gave a simple legal formula that will help the proponents of gay marriage colonize even states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages.
Scalia, who angrily dissented from the majority, was in true form for this case. If you want to read some of the best quotes from his dissent, here’s a link from Mother Jones. Notably, when the court struck down sodomy laws in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, Scalia predicted that it would lead to same-sex marriage.

Beyond the Nuclear Family

At a family gathering sometime in the early 2000s, I joked that same-sex marriage was great, but we would really be making progress when I was allowed to marry a man and a woman. This was part social satire and part coming out — and fortunately most of my family appreciates both aspects of who I am.

The “one man, one woman” part of the same-sex marriage ban has always struck me as funny.

The language seems to come from DOMA (though it may originate earlier, this seems to be the first time it appears in legislation). I’ve always thought that was proactive of the defenders of marriage, who must have heard of polyamory or at least polygamy. It’s even funnier that the Mormons are the ones who were so busy defending traditional marriage when everyone associates them with polygamy.

Planet Waves
The Schumard family, circa 1955 — an image of the American nuclear family, which replaced the extended family, which replaced the tribe. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Why not extend marriage to three women, two women and a man, two men and a woman or three men and a baby?

I think that DOMA and Proposition 8 both falling flat is an invitation to anyone who supports nontraditional relationships to claim a victory — and to claim some territory in public consciousness. It’s inevitable that the polyamory issue will come to the surface sooner or later, and that the gay rights movement paved the road on which it will drive, built the rest stops, wrote the driving manual and packed a picnic lunch.

I think that polyamorous is the new queer. If that is true, it’s on the way to being the new (or old) normal.

I asked my fellow thinkers in the poly movement for their impressions of how this week’s cases impacted polyamorous people.

“I feel overturning DOMA is a step in the right direction and I am thrilled for the many same-sex couples that will be positively affected by this decision,” said Robyn Trask, executive director of Loving More, an organization that advocates for alternative relationships.

“Is it a step toward plural marriage? I am skeptical as it is a complicated issue and begs the question: should marriage be regulated at all? I know many polyamorists would choose to marry more than one if it were legal and that, by the laws of some states, many are violating the law since co-habitation is in some states considered common law marriage,” she said, adding, “I think individuals should have the choice of who they love, how they commit and to how many.”

Trask believes that the matter is larger than same-sex marriage; it extends into the concept of what a family is — and that concept is changing.

“The right to family of choice is really what is at stake and that some legal protections should extend to people in multi-partnered marriage. Unfortunately too many of us in the polyamory community have been afraid to even bring up the subject, we are still afraid of job discrimination and other issues like child custody,” she said.

Planet Waves
Loving More magazine cover focusing on children in polyamorous situations — one of the main topics discussed by the poly community.

“Many people are in the closet and most are not willing to support an effort to demand equality and recognition of polyamory as an orientation and a viable choice in relationships and families. We as a movement are in our infancy with nothing acting as a catalyst to bring us together in a cohesive way. Too many of us simply stick our head in the sand and are not willing to take the risks needed to gain acceptance and recognition. We can’t even agree on the definition of polyamory and throw fits when someone dares to define it as loving relationships” as opposed to sex for its own sake.

I also heard back from Jessica Karels, the co-founder of Modern Poly, a polyamory advocacy and education organization.

“Historically marriage has been a financial transaction that secured alliances among families, in which a woman’s ability to produce legitimate heirs was among the items traded,” Karels said.

“Only in the past few centuries have people intentionally married for love, but it was only in the past century that women have started to ascend from property to partner in a marriage.”

“By keeping the nuclear family as the norm, we place the obligation of raising children on the biological parents rather than on the community that they will later benefit. Our culture enforces this model by limiting financial resources to mothers, especially single mothers.

“The United States is especially guilty of this, as we are the only first-world country that does not make paid maternity leave mandatory. Legislation to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care further enforces this system by forcing fertile women into motherhood lacking community support, or into a partnership based on financial need rather than wholly on love and commitment.”

Karels sees a potential evolution from same-sex marriage to a wider concept of family because it rearranges gender roles and outside help is required if the same-sex couple wants to have a biological child.

Planet Waves

“Recent steps towards marriage equality could have a larger cultural impact than we can imagine. Same-sex marriage, by its very nature, denies the traditional gender roles that are a part of the nuclear family model — the very same gender roles that have justified the oppression of women throughout history.

“A same-sex couple requires outside assistance in order to become parents — be it a surrogate mother, a sperm donor, or a mother giving up her child for adoption. In some instances, the adult who provided ‘biological aid’ becomes a member of the family of sorts and helps with caring for and raising the child. This triple-parenting based on need can lead to multiple-adult parenting based on choice and love — an evolution of family from nuclear to community.”

I will let Jessica have the last word.


Note to Readers — I have done a detailed reading of NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s natal chart on The Mountain Astrologer’s blog. It’s open to everyone. The comments are interesting, too.

Another Note to Readers — We will be on a holiday schedule next week. The Friday issue will be a horoscope only. I plan to do a reading of the U.S. chart on Planet Waves FM.

Another Other Note to Readers — Briefs below are written by Amanda Painter, Susan Scheck and Eric Francis with research by Carol van Strum, Len Wallick and others. Cam Hassard contributed a brief on this week’s wild politics in Australia that I will publish as soon as possible.


Planet Waves

Uranus-Pluto Square Going Strong; So is Everything Else

Over the next few days, the Sun passes through the Uranus-Pluto square. By that I mean that Monday, July 1 at 8:05 pm EDT the Sun in Cancer makes an opposition to Pluto in Capricorn, and then Thursday, July 4 the Sun makes a square to Uranus in Aries. These aspects have manifestations now.

The Uranus-Pluto square can seem to lurk in the background (but never that far in the background), then when other planets make aspects to it — as is happening generously these days — it takes more tangible, pronounced forms and emerges into the foreground. We will feel a wave of this when both the Sun and the Moon are mixed up with the square this weekend — when the Moon reaches last quarter phase in Aries on Sunday.

Planet Waves
Last quarter Moon on June 30. Link to full size chart here and our handy dandy glyph legend here. It’s not as complicated as it looks.

This is some deep, focused energy coming through the cosmos right now thanks to Sun-Pluto, culminating with a burst of ‘revolutionary’ astrology on July 4 — the Sun-Uranus square. Revolutionary also means restless, inventive, surprising and exciting — do something a little odd; if you have a choice of the posh party or the one where the artists and musicians are hanging out, hang out with the weirdos. You’ll have a lot more fun.

Mercury is retrograde as of earlier this week, and Jupiter is now in Cancer through next summer. Both are making lots of aspects. As I describe in detail in my Cancer birthday reading, Jupiter (currently activating the Aries Point) will be making aspects to nearly every major planet in the solar system in the next couple of months, starting immediately.

Mercury for its part will retrograde into a square with Eris today. That should be good for some fun.

Venus has entered Leo, and is working its way toward a conjunction with Ceres later in the week. Ceres, the first asteroid ever discovered and now the first ‘dwarf planet’, is a complex archetype that goes way beyond the usual ‘grain and grief’ reading that most astrologers ascribe to it.

At the least, we can say that Ceres is a manifestation of the goddess, the oldest of the Roman pantheon. While there is often a leap between the role of a deity and the delineation of an asteroid, it’s usually worth knowing the role that the figure played in culture.

Planet Waves
The Roman goddess Ceres. She is more complicated than she looks.

Ceres may be the oldest written Roman reference to divinity; involved with fecundity in all forms (grain, reproduction), initiation rituals, rituals upon returning to society after some form of absence or exile (presumably for initiation purposes, will find out more when I get to that chapter), working-class people of all sorts (plebes), upper class women and political propaganda. She ‘supervised’ a group of 17 other gods and goddesses. (I am learning this from the book The Roman Goddess Ceres by Barbette Spaeth, still in print.)

Ceres is not simple, she’s something truly special. One thing that planet spotters can do is watch for manifestations of this complexity when there’s something so spectacular as a Venus-Ceres conjunction in Leo, which is exact Sunday (and in effect for several days on either side of that).

Eros enters Gemini Friday — try that on for kinky love letters, erotic fiction and any form of sex where ‘twinning’ is the hot thing to do. (Can you spell 69? Can you recite the alphabet?)

Mars in Gemini is beginning to oppose the late Sagittarius centaurs, with Ixion and Pholus first on Friday. That could release a lot of energy — the phrase ‘drunk with power’ comes to mind, so watch out for those people and if necessary, leave work early, especially if you work for the Texas state government. Speaking of government, Pallas conjoins Chaos in Gemini Friday.

As for the Moon: currently in Pisces, trine Mercury and Vesta, on Saturday the Moon enters Aries at 9:06 am EDT — making contact with the Aries Point, squaring Jupiter, Black Moon Lilith and the Sun (all in Cancer). The last quarter Moon is exact at 12:53 am EDT Sunday, June 30.

And that is the current sky.

Note to Readers — We will be on a holiday schedule next week. The Friday issue will be a horoscope only. I plan to do a reading of the U.S. chart on Planet Waves FM.


Planet Waves

Monsanto GMOs: A Totally Toxic Soup

Recent scientific studies are coming down harder than ever on Monsanto’s standing claim that its herbicide and pesticide products are safe, naming both active and inert ingredients as deadly to public health.

Yet the Environmental Protection Agency is playing into Monsanto’s hands once again, by issuing a new rule raising the acceptable residue limits of the company’s glyphosate herbicide on food. Glyphosate is the herbicide in the company’s Roundup pesticide, linked to serious health effects in recent scientific studies.

Planet Waves
Parody of the Death card from the Tarot de Marseille, Monsanto-styled.

The herbicide has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor even at low doses and can have long-term effects on reproductive health, according to the National Institutes of Health. A June 2013 study said that glyphosate “exerted proliferative effects in human hormone-dependent breast cancer.” An April 2013 study by MIT scientists said the herbicide’s “negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”

The EPA is taking public comments on raising the glyphosate level until Monday, July 1. You can add your comment here. For the required field “Organization Name,” please enter “Citizen.”

New information is coming out about another pesticide ingredient. A study at University of Brasilia recently found that red blood cells suffer due to a bacterium commonly used as a pesticide in Monsanto’s crops, called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

The number of red blood cells in rats exposed to Bt bacterium was not only lowered through the destruction of the cells themselves, but the toxins also disrupted blood clotting and caused organ degeneration and tissue damage. Levels of hemoglobin for oxygen were also significantly reduced.

“While Bt toxin does appear naturally in the environment, it does not normally occur in conjunction with soil, insects and plant surfaces, so the spreading of this bacterium through GMO is quite possibly going to create yet another super bug that can cause additional human deaths,” said an article in Natural Society.

Furthermore, inert ingredients in Roundup — which by definition are supposed to be harmless — have been found to amplify the toxic effect on human cells, even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.

“This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen. “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens.


Planet Waves

China Warned Over Huge Release of Refrigerant Greenhouse Gas

In what is being called a “climate bomb,” 19 factories — 11 of them in China — are set to stop incinerations of the HFC-23 gas used in refrigerants, because of a ban on trading of climate credits. The release of those gases through 2020 would be 15,000 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Planet Waves
The view near a chemical plant in Quzhou, China, shows how severe pollution has become. Photo by Quilai Shen for a New York Times article about the UN’s CDM.

The factories have been receiving climate credits under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for installing and operating incinerators to burn HFC-23 that is created during the manufacturing process, instead of venting it into the atmosphere. If the trading credits disappear, the manufacturers say it would no longer be economically viable for them to incinerate the gas.

A warning by the EIA in a report to be released on Monday will raise the pressure on China to ban such gases and end economic incentives for their production in multilateral talks.

The EIA said an investigation had shown that most of China’s non-CDM facilities were emitting HFC-23 already. “If all of these facilities [under the CDM] join China’s non-CDM and vent their HFC-23, they will set off a climate bomb emitting more than 2bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2020,” it said.

Releasing HFC-23 gases into the atmosphere is not illegal, despite the threat to the environment.


Planet Waves

Practice of FGM Grows in the United States

An eye-opening study claims that up to 200,000 American girls and women are at risk of female genital cutting, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) and female circumcision, a procedure that many Americans perceive as an international issue.

The study by the nonprofit group Sanctuary for Families says that American girls and women undergo FGM here or through what is known as “vacation cutting,” in which young women in the U.S. are sent abroad or travel with parents or grandparents to their native countries.

Planet Waves
FGM survivors and advocates at a press conference held by Sanctuary for Families on International Women’s Day in March.

In January of this year the U.S. passed a law making it illegal to send young women out of the country for “vacation cutting,” but enforcement is difficult and prosecutions are rare even for FGM practiced domestically.

“People in the United States think that FGM only happens to people outside of the United States, but in all actuality, people here all over the country have been through FGM. Kids that were born in this country are taken back home every summer and undergo this procedure,” a 23-year-old woman from Gambia stated in the report.

Traditional practitioners are often secretly brought to the U.S. from other countries, and an entire group of girls may be cut in an afternoon. Pressure from families in the ancestral land and from community leaders here are largely responsible for continuing the practice on new American generations of women, according to Claudia De Palma of Sanctuary for Families.


Planet Waves

First Amendment versus Second Amendment?

In Louisiana, you can get a permit to carry a concealed weapon — but if you’re a journalist, you can get slapped with a $10,000 fine and six months in jail if you publish the name of anyone who does so. It’s the latest in what seems like a country-wide push to criminalize journalism.

Planet Waves
All those blue states issue permits to carry concealed weapons (some restrictions on use), along with the green states (no restrictions) and the yellow states (more restrictions). Only one state does not. As recently as the mid-90s most states did not allow or strongly restricted concealed weapons. Clearly the Second Amendment is in grave danger… Right?

On June 19, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill setting these penalties for anyone who publishes “any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit” — unless that person has been charged with a felony involving a handgun.

Supporters of the bill were reacting in part to a New York newspaper that published a Google map featuring the names and addresses of local handgun permit holders this winter, citing that as evidence that a law was needed. In most states, including Louisiana, such information is confidential; Alabama is the only other state in which publication of concealed-carry permit holders’ names is illegal.

Carl Redman, the executive editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate and chairman of the Louisiana Press Association’s Freedom of Information Committee, commented that it’s very ironic that the very people who screamed the loudest about attempts to limit their Second Amendment rights are here eager to limit my First Amendment rights.”


Planet Waves

SCOTUS Rulings on Work Relationships

This week the Supreme Court of the U.S. also ruled on cases related to sexual harassment, discrimination and whether a discharged serviceman convicted of sexual assault would have to register as a civilian sex offender.

In Vance v. Ball State University, the Court “narrowly defined a worker’s ‘supervisor’ as someone who can change a person’s employment status, thus limiting legal protections for those harassed by superiors who lack such direct control,” according to Democracy Now!

Planet Waves
Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg reading from her dissent in another case this week about racial discrimination, Fisher v. U. of Texas. Courtroom sketch by Art Lien/SCOTUSblog.

Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, dissented vigorously, writing that the majority decision “ignores the conditions under which members of the work force labor, and disserves the objective of Title VII to prevent discrimination from infecting the Nation’s workplaces.” Title VII is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A separate ruling saw the Court backing tighter standards for workers trying to prove they have been the victims of retaliation after complaining about discrimination. In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the majority decision was that Title VII only covers claims of discrimination (such as for employment on the basis of sex, religion or race, for example) not retaliation.

Again, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, strongly dissented, calling on Congress to overturn both decisions.

Finally, in the context of the stunning revelations this spring of massive-scale sexual assaults in the military, including charges of sexual assault by officers serving on military sexual assault task forces, it seems like a no-brainer that anyone convicted of sexual assault in the military should also have to register as a sex offender as a civilian. The Supreme Court did in fact decide that a former member of the Air Force must do so, even though he has completed his military sentence for the crime.

On one level United States v. Kebodeaux is a narrow and unremarkable case. However Justice Roberts, even though he concurred with the decision, argued against the “generalized police power” that the ruling’s language points toward. Steven Schwinn on SCOTUSblog writes that, “… Kebodeaux, like Comstock before it, represents potentially vast congressional authority.”

In the grand scheme of relational justice in this post 9-11 world, that is something to keep an eye on as Uranus and Pluto keep shaking things up.


Planet Waves

Planet Waves

“Dance because you’re drunk at a big dance party with your friends and Michael Jackson is playing, not because ‘no one is watching.’ Everyone is watching. We’re at a fucking party. That’s how parties work.” Some timely weekend advice to go with the top section of the Inspirational Photo BINGO card.

Maxed Out on Inspirational Photos? Try BINGO!

Sharing inspirational quotes and lists and articles and images online is great… until you realize it’s making you crazy, since you’re a regular person who can barely keep your floors clean, let alone make time for regular chakra-clearing. The author of the blog “I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog” has created a great game for blowing off steam when you start to feel like you’ll implode with frustration from reading one more set of “25 things happy/peaceful/successful/healthy people do.”

It’s called Inspirational Photo BINGO, and it goes with her blog post titled, “Twelve Habits of Happy, Healthy People Who Don’t Give a Shit About Your Inner Peace.” You play by seeing how quickly you can fill the card by spotting saccharinely cliched images while reading ‘inspirational’ articles. Honestly, how often do you get to do pro-level yoga poses on a mountain overlooking a deserted tropical beach at sunset (which sounds great, but out of reach for most people)? And how many other ways can you think of to be authentic and happy and engaged with the world?


Planet Waves

Jupiter in Cancer, Mercury Retrograde, Edward Snowden — and Introducing the Phila-based Band Grandchildren

[Link to Edition] What’s not happening right now? Not much! This is a classic moment of everything, all at once — the spirit of 2012 — the imprint of the Aries Point, Jupiter changing signs, Mercury stationing retrograde, the Sun about to pass through the Uranus-Pluto square, Jupiter about to do so as well, and much else.

Planet Waves
The band Grandchildren.

The Supreme Court is issuing decisions on the most personal matters of our lives, the U.S. government is going nuts trying to get its hands onto Edward Snowden, Texas is trying to ban abortions and lots else.

I look at the current astrology, walk you through current events in an engaging way and follow the journey and chart of Edward Snowden as they both develop.

Here’s my current post on The Mountain Astrologer‘s blog, about Edward Snowden’s chart with a lively conversation brewing among people you don’t know from Planet Waves.

I also introduce the amazing Philadelphia-based band Grandchildren. The New Philadelphia magazine once described them as “full of amazing vigor, but also kind of detached in a way that’s hard to put your finger on. They don’t really seem to play their music as much as transmit it from some distant alien host, like a band possessed.”


Planet Waves

Your Monthly Horoscopes — and our Publishing Schedule Notes

The June monthly extended horoscopes  were published Friday, May 24. Inner Space horoscopes for June were published Friday, May 31. I recommend reviewing the previous month’s horoscope at the end of the month; you can see May’s monthly horoscope here. We published the Moonshine horoscopes for the Capricorn Full Moon on Tuesday, June 18. Moonshine horoscopes for the Cancer New Moon will publish Tuesday, July 2.

Note to Readers — We will be on a holiday schedule next week. The Friday issue will be a horoscope only. I plan to do a reading of the U.S. chart on Planet Waves FM.

Inner Space Monthly Horoscope for July 2013, #956 | By Eric Francis

We’re now under the influence of all three water signs. Jupiter ingressed Cancer on June 25, joining Saturn in Scorpio and Chiron and Neptune in Pisces. Mercury is retrograde in Cancer. That began June 26 and ends July 20. If you’re making plans or initiating a project, make sure you leave a few days’ margin after the retrograde ends to allow Mercury to come back up to speed and focus your thoughts. The Cancer New Moon is July 8. Mars enters Cancer July 13. Venus enters Virgo July 21, and the Aquarius Full Moon is July 22. That’s the same day that the Sun ingresses Leo.

Aries (March 20-April 19)

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You seem to be going back and forth on an issue that’s calling for a firm decision. The more decisive you try to be, the more it seems like there are two irreconcilable sides of the story, each with its own seemingly valid point of view. The more you try to please everyone, the more obvious it becomes that you’ll never be able to do that. I suggest you not burn yourself out doing this. You probably already know the reality of the situation, not from rationalizing or arguing one side of the case over the other, but because you simply know. What you’re really waiting for is the courage to take action, whether that means declaring an end to something, or committing to it more fully.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Taurus (April 19- May 20)

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — It’s time to set boundaries with your family, which really means organizing your life the way you want. I suggest you identify the center of your life: the element about which you’re the most passionate, or the place where you most dependably tend the fires. Then ask yourself how you feel when you imagine your family — be it parents, spouse, partner or children — knowing that’s the thing you care about so deeply. Do you perceive support or reticence? Do you feel better about yourself, or do questions come up? How you think that others feel about you is a good picture of how you feel about yourself. It’s more complex than you may think, though you do seem determined to get to the heart of the matter.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Gemini (May 20- June 21)

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You’re at the most important juncture of the year when it comes to sorting your financial priorities, and getting clear about how to be more financially successful. I suggest that the first thing you do is recognize your potential. Your earning capacity has expanded significantly in recent weeks, and you need to be clear about that so you can take advantage of it. Yet there’s another ingredient that will help unlock your potential, which is sorting through everything you were taught about money as a child: whether it’s a good or bad thing, whether you deserve any and for what activities, the impressions that adult relatives made on you, and so on. This may be ancient history but it’s information that is useful and indeed essential to work with now.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).

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The Cancer reading is now ready! Order for instant access.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Jupiter has returned to your sign for the first time in nearly 12 years, and I trust you’ve already started to notice some of the pressure coming off, and your world expanding just a bit. Jupiter is providing you with a kind of cushion that will create some open space around you and deflect random objects, and give you access to additional resources. Now that you know this, I suggest you relax a little and see what happens. Try doing that Cancerian thing and eat real food, take care of the plants and get enough sleep every night. There has been a frenetic quality to your life the past few months, as if you’ve been driven by some kind of invisible psychic force. Take some time and notice how much you’ve accomplished. That’ll give you a clue of what’s to come. Note — I’ve just finished a fantastic Cancer birthday reading which looks in detail at Jupiter in your sign.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) –Match your actions to your innermost thoughts. From our earliest days we are trained to split our personalities: to say one thing and do another; to feel a certain way and act against our feelings; to violate our intelligence or intuition; and many other examples. One beautiful thing about the astrology of July is the close relationship between your deepest sentiments and your choices and actions. It would seem you have no interest in hypocrisy — only in acting from your values with the utmost sincerity. This is the course of action that will feel the best because it’s a reflection of who you actually are. All those options about choosing anything to the contrary are vastly overrated.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You have no control over how you’re perceived. You have some influence, but in truth, people believe what they believe and they often see based on their beliefs. Meanwhile, you’re a person on a mission — and from what I can tell, you’re entirely sincere. Part of taking up anything larger than yourself, or acting in ways that benefit others, can be the perception that you have some other motive. I could go over all the rationales behind this, but you probably know them. I suggest that you not let anyone’s opinion of you, or their perceived opinion, influence your dedication. Persist for just a little while and soon enough the simple reality of the situation will be obvious to everyone.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Libra (Sep. 22 - Oct. 23)

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — You tend to leave an impression on others that is more austere and conservative than you may think. There’s a certain reserve around your sign, a reticence to reveal too much, and your astrology is illustrating just such an inner discussion now. You seem to have some compelling reasons to stay silent — and some even more compelling reasons to reveal something specific about yourself. Which is the correct impulse? Well, which haven’t you tried? What are your concerns about consequences? Are they just fears, or are they realistic? One of the main qualifications for leadership is sincerity. Were you to choose that path, what would you want to reveal? Not be compelled to reveal out of some moral dictate, but want to reveal because you will feel better and stronger for doing so?

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You may be spending too much time pleading your case or arguing for your cause than is necessary. That would include negotiation or studying various points of view. People in your life are more likely to do what’s right based on the fact that it’s actually so rather than based on any rationales that you may present to them. I would propose that if you accept and believe what you know to be true — especially what you know to be true for you — that others will be much more inclined to do so. If you find yourself debating anything, ask yourself whether you really believe it, and what basis you have for doing so. Be bold about questioning yourself — and about responding.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You may find it easier to clear the hot air out of the room now that Jupiter is in Cancer — a sign that’s cooler, more inwardly seeking and oriented on feelings. You’ve learned a lot about yourself with Jupiter moving through your opposite sign. Its new placement is less about what is said and more about what is done. People demonstrate their feelings, their caring, their sincerity through their actions. Words can deceive easily and often do so; it’s more difficult to deceive with actions. Now you need to tell the difference, both in terms of what you do and what others do. Let your actions and the actions of others do all the talking.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — It’s been a long time since you were cut a break. You’ve been so driven and so restless in recent years, you might count it a miracle if anyone could keep up with you, or understand you, or feel the kinds of pressures and enforced changes that you’ve been going through on a fairly regular basis. Your relationships can now consciously provide a cushion of safety for you. Yet whether you see and feel this will depend largely on your emotional orientation. I suggest you relax a little. Give people the benefit of the doubt about whether they understand you or are capable of seeing your point of view. You don’t need to push yourself or others so hard. Get the feeling of being at home wherever you are, and you will feel like that a little more every day.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Yours is the sign of the water bearer, and that water has to come from someplace. Some of the sage descriptions of your sign encourage you to fill up your urn so that you have something to give to others when called upon to do so. Jupiter joining many other planets in the water signs is a reminder to pause, fill up and strengthen yourself. To do this, however, you will need to make a conscious choice to trust, and to question your many reasons not to trust. This time in your life only seems to be about the authority you have over your own life and to some extent your responsibility for others. It’s about relaxing into an exchange, and having the faith to receive what you need when it’s offered to you.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).
Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — It takes a lot to let go of control on this planet right now, whether it’s actual control or the illusion thereof. You have compelling reasons to do that, most significantly your peace of mind. But in order for this to be sincere, you need to replace control with something else. The one-word description of that ‘something else’ is faith — though that too may be challenging for you at times, and it’s nothing that you can contrive. What I suggest you replace it with is an experiment in how far your creativity can get you. If you see a problem, a puzzle or a conflict, try having faith that your creativity can turn it to something positive for everyone, then give it a try. Your results will speak for themselves.

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two product

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The Queer Frontier

Dear Friend and Reader:

I had a great time listening to the arguments surrounding both same-sex marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) last week before the U.S. Supreme Court. It was like the “personal is political” World Series, hearing some of the most intimate human topics being debated in what is arguably the most powerful court in the world.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis – Blue Studio / New York.

I loved hearing some of the justices make truly illuminating points and hearing others squirm around having to discuss something they wished they didn’t have to deal with. You might say that was sex, or the idea of gay sex — or you might say that was progress.

They’re all closely related. The essence of the discussion was: is sex actually a moral issue? We’re told it is so often, and we’re so thoroughly conditioned to treat it like it is, that I think many people would rather discover their kid playing with explosives than walk in on them playing doctor.

Treating sex as a moral issue has a long history, though looked at another way, it is the story of history. This has its origins in religion, which predates our modern concept of law or government. Yet the two are closely related. The purpose of both is less about an orderly society, a trustworthy economy or meeting the needs of the people, and more about social control.

There was that stunning moment during the DOMA arguments when Justice Elena Kagan quoted the House of Representatives report on why it passed the law. In that report, we discover that Congress, under the stewardship of serial polygamist Newt Gingrich, felt that marriage needed to be defended in order to “honor a collective moral judgment” reflecting “moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

Rep. Henry Hyde, then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee where DOMA was brewed and fermented, said at the time that “most people do not approve of homosexual conduct … and they express their disapprobation through the law.” And now that law, or rather the whole tendency to place moral judgment on normal social behavior, is up for question.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis – Blue Studio / New York.

We don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do with these cases, though we know that there is a discussion happening on the highest level of government. For many reasons, that’s truly encouraging. What was once deeply hidden, denied and treated with disgust and rage is now household conversation, in a sense, sanctified by the blessing of the court.

Yet that could only happen were there some movement on the deepest level of the psyche. Which brings me to the astrology involved.

We’re in the midst of a generational event — the Uranus-Pluto square. This is the latest step in a cycle that turned over in the mid-1960s; that was the Uranus-Pluto conjunction. To some extent we all utter the words “The Sixties” with some reverence — it was a profound, tragic, sometimes beautiful, often wrenching time in history. A force for change had been let loose, and that was described by the Uranus-Pluto conjunction.

Now we are at the first quarter phase of that cycle — the square. The force of evolution and that of revolution are meeting at a 90-degree angle, which technically spans from 2012-2015, but which in retrospect will have a story arc that goes from around 2008 through around 2020. We’re now in the peak of the astrology.

But with the exceptions of some uprisings in 2011 — prior to the exact square, and which either did not persist, or which ended badly — we’re not seeing demonstrations in the streets, or a social uprising. But what we are seeing are these developments in our concept of relationship; and that is a development in our concept of what a person is. Plenty of that concept is related to sex.

Many, many centuries of “disapprobation” directed at homosexuality in particular have left a compounded injury in our collective and individual psyches. One way that manifests is as homophobia, by which I mean anything from subtle annoyance to deep, abiding disgust. When you combine that with the natural primate tendency toward same-sex relating, the result can be a lot of chaos and pain, or a society that often seems to be unraveling.

Looked at one way the Uranus-Pluto square is about some kind of upheaval, change or progress in society. Looked at another way, it’s an introspective process that each person is experiencing individually. That, I believe, is where the real progress is happening.

I would offer a perspective on the spiritual significance of embracing the whole notion of ‘homosexual’. Primal sex is sex with oneself. Very nearly everyone masturbates, which I’ve observed is a kind of core level of sexuality. It’s not about reproduction. It’s about the pleasure of existence or perhaps the mere fact of it, it involves feelings related to the self, from the self, in a reflexive way — and it’s true blue homo.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis – Blue Studio / New York.

The sex we have with ourselves is a form of gay sex; it is a same-sex experience. That, I believe, is one reason for the fuss over masturbation that has persisted more than 400 years (it can actually be historically traced to the early 1700s). There are other reasons; one is that sex alone with oneself has a way of opening up the full potential of fantasy, which does not always follow the fantasy that starts with a bridal shower.

I used to think that a sexual revolution would happen after AIDS was cured. It’s not really cured but it’s not what it used to be. Yet as time and my writing portfolio have collected, I’ve reconsidered. In my view, we don’t need a sexual revolution. We need conscious sexual evolution, which means many people individuating and living lives of authenticity, transparency and awareness (the opposite of hypocrisy). Sexual evolution is about being real.

The core of sexual evolution is that you are an independent person and so is everyone else. Then you do what you want to do in an ethical way. Part of that ethical way involves honoring independence and sexual choices, and understanding that nearly all of us exist on a continuum with each of our lovers, as they do with us — there are (for nearly everyone) those who ‘came before’ and those who will ‘come after’.

That leaves plenty of room for deep exchange, safe containers for family, and longterm or even lifelong commitment.

Now that monogamous lesbians and male homosexuals and the things they do are on the way to acceptance in society, it’s time to open the discussion that sexuality exists on a three-dimensional continuum (not the Kinsey scale), and that every person has a different sexual orientation with every different person we encounter. I guess that makes us a different kind of queer with everyone and anyone.

My sense is that Uranus-Pluto has nudged us out to the Queer Frontier. Yes, many pioneers have been here for a while; I am talking about the preponderance of momentum in our society, social movement that has the ability to carry many with it.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis – Blue Studio / New York.

Here are some ideas about who deserves full inclusion in our ongoing conversation of what is possible rather than what is moral.

People who are open and positive about sex. There are many; those who are willing to speak up are a rare breed. They’re the people who admit the whole thing, stating who they are, who they like and what they do. They are the people who can carry on a conversation and create the spaces where nothing is taboo.

Self-sexuals, which includes everyone part of the time, and many people much of the time. Many people otherwise engaged sexually have their best sex with themselves. This includes people who choose to be sexual exclusively with themselves; if we were to hear from them we would find out there are a lot more than we thought.

My sense is that this is where the real change — claiming pleasure and releasing guilt and shame — will start or may have already started. I understand conscious self-sexuality to be an easily accessible, pleasurable, socially interesting path to sexual healing.

I have noticed that many people are reluctant to speak up and claim this. I am doing my best to set a different trend. (I may hold the World Internet Record for mentions of masturbation in my articles, as of today, I get 6,060 Google returns on the topic). I know there are a LOT more people who have something to say — who I have yet to hear from (happily anticipating your emails).

People who choose themselves as a sex partner, whether ‘one on one’ or in the context of other sexual relationships, have the right to not feel shame about this, and we need to educate one another how to do this.

I took a little surf of my 6,060 Google hits a few minutes ago and found this quote, apropos of self-sexuality that I wrote a few years back:

“I would propose that masturbation is about a lot more than masturbation — and that’s the reason it’s still considered so taboo by many people, and in many places. First, I would say that masturbation holds the key to all sexuality. It’s a kind of proto-sexuality, the core of the matter of what it means to be sexual. I mean this in an existential sense. Masturbation is the most elemental form of sexuality, requiring only awareness and a body. Whatever we experience when we go there is what we bring into our sexual encounters with others — whether we recognize it or not. Many factors contribute to obscuring this simple fact.”

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis – Blue Studio / New York.

Polyamory and nontraditional forms of relationships, which includes most people some of the time and nearly all people at some point. The awareness that some people actually admit to this is starting to increase, though at the moment polyamory seems to be wanting for idea-based leadership and coordination, in the midst of its biggest PR boon ever. The press has never been better and we’re not really taking the opportunity to build on it. I would remind polyamorous leaders that it was two sci-fi writers who got your movement going; you might want to give out book lists at your mixers, and have writing workshops at your conferences.

Single people. Not poly. Not mono. Not cheating. Not ‘asexual’. Single — those whose primary partner is ‘perself’ to use a Marge Piercy word (from Woman on the Edge of Time) for ‘him or herself’. Many people are single because that’s what’s available, and a good few are because they want to be that way.

Single people are discriminated against structurally by everything from the tax code to the dentist office application to you name it. The tax break for married couples is stunningly discriminatory, literally paying some people to have one specific kind of relationship. Single people are often considered a threat to the sanctity of coupled people. I could go on and on. Check out a blog called Onely.org for more info. Note, I would recommend to the Single’s Rights Movement that it could help matters by being more open and honest about masturbation.

Bisexuals and gender fluid people whose identity is not fixed and committed like registering with a political party. The official queer movements still have a hard time with this, no matter how many letters they add to their collection. I am speaking about people in harmony with their diversity of potentials, desires, choices and options for how they can feel and express themselves. When we look carefully at this and at ourselves we will find out that many, many more people fit this description than the previously existing political parties ‘allow’. Gender and sexual orientation are indeed fluid. The sex organs secrete liquid, which is designed to mix with others, in case we need a biological metaphor.

Asexual and non-practicing (apparently there is such a thing as asexual, with 1% of the population reporting this). Having no sexual feelings or not wanting to act on them is as queer as anything else in a world where sex is considered normal. From what I have read in my inbox, they feel left out when the conversation turns to sex and relating. They would do well to find one another and talk about who they are and what they do. There are many reasons for this choice, and we need to consider it as valid as any other.

That is the whole point. We all have a right to choose who we are and what we want. The ability to do this, I believe, needs to be about ability and volition rather than about privilege. The core idea is consent: the freedom to say yes or no, to yourself and to others; the freedom to decide who you are today.



Planet Waves

Invocation of Spring: Your 2013 spring sex and love astrology reading is now available for purchase. The eclipses approaching this season are on the sensual, passionate Taurus-Scorpio axis. Beltane (the Pagan holiday celebrating fertility and sexual union in early May, at the peak of spring) is right around the corner.

Your 12-sign reading includes an introduction plus a 40-minute audio reading for each sign. Listen to your Sun, Moon and rising sign for added depth as you start tuning up your sex and love vibrations. Consider these audio readings a kind of a road map for your relationships — and some inspiration. Order instant access for $24.95 here.


Planet Waves

Quite the Aries New Moon

The sky is currently building toward the Aries New Moon. Astrologers don’t usually describe the New Moon as a building process — usually it’s more like closure, resolution and completion. Yet this is an unusual New Moon, with the sensation of something building to a point of release, much more like a Full Moon.

Planet Waves
Chart section showing planets in Aries at the New Moon April 10, plus Mercury at the top in Pisces, safely out of its echo phase. Uranus is in early Aries; the Sun and Moon are conjunct at 20+ Aries, with Eris, Mars and Venus nearby within about three degrees. Glyph legend.

It’s exact at 5:35 am EDT on Wednesday, April 10. Several smaller but meaningful events lead up to this, though it’s worth noting that we have this landmark on the immediate horizon. It’s actually a grand conjunction involving five planets, which are the Moon and Sun (as with any New Moon), the new planet Eris, and then Venus and Mars.

Additionally, Uranus is a longterm visitor in Aries, and while it’s slightly off to the side of this New Moon, it’s close enough to add energy, a creative factor and a hint that there’s a lack of predictability involved in the events that develop.

Yet that is also described by the presence of Eris in the middle of the five-planet alignment. Eris, a Pluto-like planet with a much longer orbit than Pluto, is serving as a kind of threshold — between the familiar and the unfamiliar. That can include your familiar concept of yourself and the one you don’t know so well; it can include your familiar concept of relationships and the one that perhaps you are being drawn into as if by gravity.

Between what I’m calling the ‘familiar state’ and the ‘unfamiliar state’ is a kind of threshold. You might say that threshold is a direct encounter with the unknown, and the fact that there even is an unknown. (One of the first things denial denies is the fact that there’s anything else.)

While you take the ride of this New Moon, remember that on the deepest level it’s about an encounter with your evolving self, and your relationship to that self — which sets the tone of every other relationship. Eris can add the element of chaos. I would note that there are two kinds: toxic and fertile. I suggest a bit of meditating on the difference between them. Toxic chaos is self-serving. Fertile chaos inspires creativity, and can be a release from the entanglements of the past.

Between now and Wednesday, several other things happen. One is that on Saturday, the Mercury shadow phase ends; the Mercury retrograde we experienced in February and March is fully resolved at this point. Mercury enters new territory for the first time in many weeks, and is getting ready to enter Aries on April 13.

The next day (this Sunday) is the exact Venus-Mars conjunction in Aries. This is an interesting conjunction because we have Venus and Mars in a sign that is ruled by Mars. That seems like a competitive situation of some kind — those are usually pointless. Who is competing for what? That’s the question to ask, if things ever get testy. The more competitive person is most likely to lose the game that THEY are playing, so if you want to win the game you’re playing, I suggest you avoid competitive people and find the cooperative ones.

They are most likely to be the ones who know what to do with a mystery, with the unknown, and who are comfortable making changes.


Planet Waves

Gun Control Progress: State by State

Congress may have failed to move forward Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban a couple of weeks ago, but lawmakers in individual states are proving better able to make progress in the face of the NRA’s big-money lobbying. Connecticut — where the horrific Newtown school massacre occurred this winter — is the latest state with one of the strictest gun-control laws in the U.S.

The measure, which Gov. Dannel Malloy was expected to sign into law Thursday, requires universal background checks for all gun sales, increases gun registration, expands the state’s ban on assault weapons, and bans any new sales of magazines with more than 10 bullets.

A little further south, Maryland is likely to follow suit. That state’s House of Delegates approved a bill on Wednesday that includes the fingerprinting of gun buyers and banning assault weapons and magazines with more than 10 bullets. The measure now returns to the state Senate, which passed a similar version of the bill last month.

In related news, the Center for American Progress has released a new report showing that states with the nation’s most lax gun laws also suffer the nation’s worst rates of gun violence. Eight of the states with the most gun violence were among the 25 with the weakest gun laws. Indicators included gun homicides and suicides, gun deaths of children, and fatal shootings of law enforcement officers.

Colorado, another state that has recently passed stricter gun regulations in the aftermath of gun violence, hosted President Obama this week.

“I believe there doesn’t have to be a conflict in reconciling these realities,” said Obama on Wednesday, as part of his efforts to get a gun control law passed in Washington. “There doesn’t have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights. Aurora is very much a purple city. It’s got a majority Republican city council; a majority of its state legislators are Democrat. But they came together understanding that out of this tragedy there had to be something that made sense.”

It sounds great — but Obama still needs to confront members of his own party standing in the way. That leaves it up to individual states, although Connecticut has a lot to lose if it pisses off the gun industry.

At least three major gun manufacturers call Connecticut home, and they’re threatening to leave. The small New England state can’t afford to lose the thousands of jobs represented by those companies. Yet it seems leaders there have chosen that possibility over losing more children to gun violence.


Planet Waves

Arkansas State Attorney General to Investigate ExxonMobil Oil Spill

In the aftermath of last week’s spill of up to 5,000 barrels of crude oil in Mayflower, Arkansas, state attorney general Dustin McDaniel announced he will look into the causes and impacts of the spill from the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline.

The pipeline spewed oil onto lawns, roadways and wildlife, and almost into nearby Lake Conway. No one was hurt, but the spill led authorities to evacuate more than 20 homes.

Planet Waves
A river of tar sands crude flows through a Mayflower, Arkansas, subdivision. Photo by evacuated Mayflower resident Warren Andrews via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“There are many questions and concerns remaining as to the long-term impacts, environmental or otherwise, from this spill,” McDaniel wrote to ExxonMobil executives Tuesday. He asked ExxonMobil to preserve records pending his investigation.

Also on Tuesday, federal pipeline safety officials issued a corrective action order to ExxonMobil. The cause of the rupture is still unknown, but the corrective order states ExxonMobil reversed the system flow of the pipeline in 2006, and that a change in direction of flow can affect the hydraulic and stress demands on the pipeline.

The company cannot restart the failed segment of the pipeline until officials are satisfied that it is safe.
A longstanding cause for concern has been that the Pegasus pipeline is located in an area that drains into the main source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of customers. A Central Arkansas Water official said the water system plans to formally request that ExxonMobil move it out of that region.

The spill in Arkansas comes as the Obama administration prepares to issue a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. That controversial project would expand the transport of Canadian tar sands oil on a massive scale; the Pegasus pipeline was carrying western Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude at the time of the leak.

“It’s almost as if nature was trying to send a message that it might be best to just leave this stuff underground in Canada, where it’s been safely for the last few million years, instead of trucking it, piping it, training it hither and yon across the countryside,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder and director of 350.org, on Democracy Now! this week.


Planet Waves

Who’s Responsible for the Monsanto Protection Act Anyway?

Food activists are looking askance at the White House, after Obama last week signed the “Monsanto Protection Act” into law, as it rode on the back of the larger spending bill that is keeping the federal government in business. The rider says the government must allow the planting of genetically modified crops even if courts rule they pose health risks.

Because it was passed as a rider and not as its own legislation, it expires in six months, and the food justice movement is already gearing up for a fight if it comes up again.

One mystery is who introduced the bill in the first place. Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, Monsanto’s home state, was one of its biggest supporters. Blunt reportedly crafted the bill’s language with Monsanto’s help, according to Democracy Now!

Democrat Jon Tester of Montana, the Senate’s only active farmer (and an organic farmer, at that), would sure like to find out. He opposed the rider, saying the provision would undermine judicial oversight and hurt family farmers. Tester said last month in Senate hearings that the source of the bill is unknown.

“I don’t know who authored this provision,” he said. “Maybe someone in Washington knows, but no one is willing to put their name to it. And that’s a shame.”

He’s not the only one who wants to hold someone accountable. One activist group, Peaceteam, is “demanding a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee to determine who is responsible for putting it in there, and to demand their immediate resignation, regardless of party affiliation, so that this kind of anonymous graft can never happen again,” it said in an email.

You can add your voice by visiting the Monsanto Reckless Release Action page here.


Planet Waves

Nuclear Saber Rattling on the Korean Peninsula

North Korea and the United States have once again traded escalating rhetoric and tactics in the past few weeks in the wake of a vote on tighter UN sanctions on North Korea and joint war games by the U.S and South Korea. While most of the language and tactics are similar to years past, there is always the possibility that the smoke here could turn to fire.

The latest round of bravado seems rooted in a UN Security Council vote for stricter sanctions on South Korea after a third nuclear detonation in February. This was the first such test conducted under new leader Kim Jong-un and in direct defiance of China, South Korea’s biggest backer. China responded in March by joining the other 14 Security Council voting nations in these tighter economic sanctions.

North Korea then threatened to end the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War and has since threatened nuclear attack on South Korea, Japan and United States territories and mainland. The expression of threats has so far escalated up to late Wednesday night with North Korea stating that they were cleared to engage in an attack on the U.S. using “lighter and diversified nuclear” weapons.

This all happens amidst the backdrop of joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea. The U.S. has flown stealth bombers plus B-2 and B-52 bombers over the Korean Peninsula, and has deployed war ships to the region.

While many experts and analysts agree that a nuclear attack from the north is unlikely, there are tactical moves on the part of both nations that could easily escalate the crisis.  So far though, South Korea and the U.S. have been following a typical, although volatile, script.


Planet Waves

Ready or not, someone may be coming out

Are National Football League players and their fans ready for an openly gay player? Quite a few vocal supporters think so and appear to be preparing for just that. The bigger question may be, will this be harder for the players or fans?

A CBS News report followed by an announcement from the players union indicates that a player is preparing to come out in the next few months with the intention of continuing his football career.  This would be a landmark event in the world of professional sports. It’s one of the remaining popular national institutions that has remained on the sidelines of sexual orientation / gender identification equality issues.

NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth explained that the union, in conjunction with outside organizations, has had meetings to educate players for the “inevitability” and “unavoidable” circumstances of a player coming out. He believes that the time is ripe for a player to take this step and that there are more gay players in the league, so if one comes out, others may follow.

Meanwhile, CBS News sports correspondent Mike Freeman indicated that despite negative, homophobic comments made by two current NFL players (Chris Culliver and Chris Clemons, both in response to questions about having a gay teammate in the locker room), the player in question is more concerned with the reactions of fans than of his teammates.

Minnesota Viking punter Chris Kluwe, ambassador for the group Athlete Ally that works to end homophobia in sports, agrees with that assertion. Kluwe suggests that the fundamental principles of “don’t be a distraction” and “team first,” drilled into NFL players’ psyches, may become a source of strength for the openly gay player and the team. The enormous amount of media scrutiny and fan attention is what could keep the issue contentious.


Planet Waves

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: Truthers Are Nuts, Too

In Wednesday night’s edition of Hardball on MSNBC, Chris Matthews gave a rundown of paranoid political theories circulating among the American population, including how many people think that Barack Obama is the antichrist, how many people think that the country is run by reptilians (evil ETs disguised as humans), how many are sure that Obama wasn’t born in the United States and so on. Most of these are right-wing conspiracies.

Then he said that there are some loonies on the left as well — such as the people who believe that George W. Bush took down the World Trade Center “with a plunger” (meaning a detonation device). He described these people as fringe elements, despite the fact that a 2006 Zogby poll revealed that “less than half of the American public trusts the official 9/11 story or believes the attacks were adequately investigated.”

Planet Waves
Larry Silverstein, owner of WTC 7, said in a PBS interview that he told the Fire Department that, ‘”The smartest thing to do is pull it.” Screen shot from PBS.

That means more than half of American adults do not trust the official story — now that the fog of war in Afghanistan and Iraq is starting to clear. Matthews asked incredulously what motive Bush and Co. might have had to knock the buildings down and make it look like the work of terrorists, answering his own question — hypothetically, to start those wars — but pretending that was a ridiculous theory.

Besides being prejudiced, the problem with Matthews’s objections is that they are ignorant of many basic facts.

After 11 years of dissecting how exactly two massive towers could crumble from airplane strikes without the help of explosives, attention has focused on the building that crumbled without being hit by an airplane — WTC 7 or the Salomon Brothers Building. I covered this in the Planet Waves article History, Turning on a Phrase. This article covers the astrology, the science and the psychology of the event.

Oddly not investigated in the official 9/11 report, WTC 7 collapsed onto its footprint at near free-fall speed at 5:20 pm on Sept. 11, 2001. There were numerous reports of a police radio countdown, witness testimony reveals the area was evacuated prior to the collapse, and the building had sustained only minor damage.

Office fires are cited as the usual reason that WTC 7 collapsed, despite the landlord, Larry Silverstein, admitting on PBS that he told the Fire Department that “the smartest thing to do is pull it.” That phrase is a term from the demolition industry, which “pulls” buildings (formerly with a crane, now with explosives).

Yet the real issue with Matthews’s characterization of the 9/11 issue is science. How can a skyscraper collapse at anything near free-fall speed with all that mass between the top of the building and the ground? Maybe he doesn’t know that 1,500 professional engineers and architects have agreed that from a scientific standpoint, the official explanation is impossible. There is evidence of explosives. That’s not their opinion; it’s based on the calculations of the engineers who design this kind of skyscraper, and whose job it is to make sure it stands up. You can visit the website and explore a diversity of videos there.

Of course, paraphrasing Einstein, proving that WTC 7’s spontaneous collapse violated the laws of physics would require the calculations of only one engineer, though just in case, we have a few more.


Planet Waves

Planet Waves

“The piglet squid would seem to suggest that evolution’s medications are working. Possibly a little too well.” And if you think this critter is weird, you should see what evolution comes up with when it’s having a really bad day. (There are lots of things science doesn’t fully understand about squid, including why their eyes are so complex.) Photo: Sierraclub.org via WTF, evolution?

Um, Are You Sure About That One, Evolution?

If you think you have a hard time staying motivated, upbeat and creatively juiced on the job, imagine trying to do so for 3.8 billion years! Chances are, you’d have as many ‘misses’ as ‘hits’ on your project resume. Maybe you’d occasionally confuse a really weird idea for pure genius. Perhaps spite and self-pity might get the better of you, after eons of being made fun of for some of your more experimental work. Sometimes the solutions you come up with to ‘fix’ your ‘mistakes’ might strike others as, um, less than obvious or logical. And let’s face it: almost everyone has done something stupid while drunk at least once in their lives.

This seems to be the basic idea behind the hilarious nature blog, WTF, evolution? Created by Mara Grunbaum, an editor for Scholastic Science World and a science writer for other publications, the blog imagines evolution as a sentient being who just seems to be winging it sometimes. The conversations with evolution are the best — revealing a rather sensitive soul whose feelings are easily hurt when people laugh at its favorite creations.

It’s okay, evolution — we know how you feel. Surely somebody out there appreciates you.


Planet Waves

Aries New Moon, North Korea, Elisa Novick on Tour

Thank you to my listeners for participating in our spring membership drive. As promised, I’ll leave the $49 for one year membership offer available through the end of the week for those who have not yet signed up.

Planet Waves

In this week’s edition, I cover the current astrology: last quarter Moon, Jupiter square Chiron, Mercury conjunct Borasisi (here is the article I reference, With Love from Borasisi). I also speak for a few moments about Elisa Novick’s European tour — here is that itinerary, which takes her through London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam over the next few weeks.

In the second half of the program, I check out the situation in North Korea, and take a new look at a chart called The Nuclear Axis. North Korea shows up as a wannabe nuclear country, though it may have a significant role in how we resolve the nuclear dilemma. Here is the best chart we have for this elusive country.

I reference my earlier interview with Karl Grossman, who gives a detailed history of nuclear power and nuclear bombs. Here is the link to that interview, which is in two parts, and is worth listening to (and worth playing for students of any age, who will benefit from knowing this history).


Planet Waves

Your Monthly Horoscopes — and our Publishing Schedule Notes

The April monthly extended horoscopes were published Friday, March 22. Inner Space for March was published Tuesday, Feb. 26; there will be no Inner Space for April due to scheduling issues. We published the Moonshine horoscopes for the Libra Full Moon on Tuesday, March 26. Moonshine for the Aries New Moon will publish on Tuesday, April 9. Note that the longer monthly horoscope is being incorporated into the Friday issue after the Sun has entered a new sign; a new Inner Space is generally emailed on the following Tuesday.


Planet Waves

Weekly Horoscope for Friday, April 5, 2013 #944 | By Genevieve Hathaway

This week, Genevieve is standing in for the weekly horoscope. I will be back next Friday with your weekly horoscopes. — Eric Francis.)

Aries (March 20-April 19)

Aries (March 20-April 19) — You’ve spent the past month doing a lot of work behind the scenes and below the layers of your psyche, shifting and moving material out of the way that no longer serves you. This process of de-cluttering the corners of your mental and emotional space has clarified who you are. Sharing this side of yourself may feel deeply personal — that’s a good indicator that you are showing the authentic you. As you share with others the ‘you’ no one knows, remember that how people react is independent of your inherent value. Presenting yourself unfiltered will challenge those around you to do the same. Some people may find this difficult to match, but enough people will follow your lead and answer with their own authenticity. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Planet Waves

Attention all Aries: Your 2013 Birthday Reading is ready — just in time for the Aries New Moon on April 10. Your sign is loaded with planets right now, making this New Moon the ultimate in cosmic reset buttons for you to get your solar year started Aries-style. If you have already ordered, you may now access using the login and password you received when you placed your order. If you have not yet ordered, what are you waiting for? You’re an Aries — the zodiac’s initiator! This birthday reading includes two 40-minute segments of astrology, plus a tarot spread using the Voyager Tarot by James Wanless. You may purchase instant access to this affordably priced reading here.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You are working through a question regarding desire. More specifically, what do you want and what desires bring a sense of deeper meaning for you? This may come with the feeling of an expansiveness that makes the answer hard to pinpoint, like trying to determine where a voice came from as the sound echoes through a large cavern. The discernment you are looking for is available to make some decisions regarding what you want. It involves a slight stretch in belief: that you can create in your life what it is that you want. I suggest trusting your intuition as you follow a feeling that is pointing you toward some important answers. You will make contact both with a greater sense of focus regarding what you want, and the large amount of resources at your disposal to bring what you want into your life. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Gemini (May 20- June 21)

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You are reworking an idea around ‘relationship’ and what it means to you. At the moment, you have a strong drive to be fully authentic and present in all you do. This energy can come with the feeling of pushing a round peg into a square hole. I suggest you first get clear on what a relationship that supports you as an individual would look like, then carefully and thoughtfully convey this idea to a close partner. For relationship structures to fit you, they need to give you room to be you — with all your idiosyncrasies, beliefs, dreams and curiosity — as you give the same to close partners. As you express your desire to make changes to a relationship, hold space open for a close partner to do the same. In reworking relationship dynamics, I propose you consider applying two things you know well: your curiosity and an open sense of experimentation. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Cancer (June 21- July 22)

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Your astrology highlights a busy career angle, with a number of seemingly rapid changes lately. A door you thought would open has seemed a bit stuck. I suggest you view change less as a derailment of where you want to go, and more as an opportunity to pause and examine what you want and what that would look like manifested in your life. Desire is the starting place of any path — it informs how you move, the intention you apply, and the actions taken. How that desire manifests can often come down to your vision. You have quite a few options available at the moment, and as you work through whether you want to try the previous path or create a new one, I suggest working with the attitude that it’s always a good thing to have options. At your disposal are the resources to re-open an old door or begin a new path; the key is to proceed with a vision that is aligned with your authentic self. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — A recent financial investment is challenging an old concept around resources, particularly financial resources. What you are discovering is that money is not just useful in making more money or sitting in a bank account. How you use your resources has a distinctly service-oriented component. It’s not just about writing a check, but rather knowing what your investment is creating — as well as who is impacted by it. Think of this approach as a socially aware allocation of your resources. I’m not referring to giving away all your financial wealth. Instead, notice the power your financial investments and donations have in making a difference in your community. You’re in a position to make a big impact in many lives; it will take less of an investment than you may think — though it will take targeting the right groups and people for the greatest results. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — A current agreement requires something you know well — attention to the details. I suggest taking extra care to shape, craft and fine-tune an agreement before acting on the contract or arrangement. The energy at the moment is pushing for action; in this climate you could move too quickly and miss an important piece of information. Slowing down the process enough to notice the intricacies will give you a chance to fully understand the entire landscape you are working in. Take it slowly enough to collect all the details, then double check those details and facts. You possess enough creativity and ingenuity to come up with an arrangement that is beneficial to all involved. Trust that you are able to make a good decision involving a particularly tricky part of the negotiation. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Libra (Sep. 22 - Oct. 23)

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — You are negotiating your way through a somewhat complex relationship situation. This may feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. I suggest using your intuition to feel your way through the situation. As you would use your hands to feel along the walls of the maze and build a mental image of what’s around you, tap into your intuitive body to collect information that can move you through partnership dynamics. What you are making contact with has more to do with material you’re working through internally than an actual relationship problem or difficulty. As you work through this material I suggest you not project your internal state and struggles on a partnership; instead, involve the person in an open dialogue about what you are working through. Holding the space open for yourself to heal and another person to walk this journey with you will also strengthen an existing partnership. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Your work life is in a moment of rapid change that may come with the sensation of someone hitting the fast-forward button on the scene changeover in a theatrical production. One structure has rapidly replaced another. Events are occurring quickly, which may make you feel off kilter. I suggest you not get distracted by any seeming disorientation around your work routine and its evolving structure. You tend to like to maintain control in all aspects of your life, but at the moment you are being called to move with the changes rather than trying to steer them. A creative opportunity is presenting itself, allowing you to work with these changes in a way that lets you expand farther into your workspace. It’s about creating a work structure that facilitates your creativity flourishing. Start with an openness to try new structures and then allow inspiration to guide you.
— by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — For you, a healthy component of emotional and spiritual balance is enjoying sexual fantasies. They allow you to explore many of your sexual needs that may be logistically challenging to experience directly in day-to-day life. Currently your fantasies are quite vibrant, being stoked by some hot and passionate astrology. Your core essence of self and your energetic sexual self are merging and mixing, stirring up a particularly rich fantasy life that is spilling over into your physical sexual experiences. Take the time to mentally and emotionally explore these fantasies. As you do this you will make contact with an important aspect of yourself, learning more about what makes you unique — and also tapping your well of creativity. The more sexually honest you are, the deeper you will be able to push into yourself, bringing you a stronger sense of feeling good about who you are as a whole being. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — A home is not only about the house, yard, trees, grass, shrubs and neighborhood where you live; it’s also about a sense of grounded security coming from it being ‘yours’. You can think of this as the place where you can be fully yourself, expanding into a space that is all your own. At the moment, you are working with a calling to redecorate or make changes to your home, which in essence help you further claim this space as yours. An opportunity will arise to make a few important changes to your surroundings, going a long way in helping to make the living space and surrounding environment resonate within you on a deeper level. As you consider the adjustments you make to your home, I propose you approach your living space as an extension of your inner world by focusing on increasing the nurturing nature of the space. This may be as simple as rearranging the furniture or sweeping — or as involved as taking out a wall.
— by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — We tend to think of our thought processes as part of our conscious self; something we have control over. Yet, how often does a thought enter your mind and then you mentally correct yourself or have an internal debate with yourself over that thought? How often does this internal dialogue seem to go on for far too long, reaching surprising levels of complexity? Lately many of your mental processes are coming up for review — these are the thoughts you seem to have before you have a chance to think them. These mental patterns contain many of the themes you inherited from your parents, which have been passed down for many generations. You have the tool of perspective at your disposal to see the patterns for what they are and make changes. You can see your thought patterns laid out, not only their structure, but also where in your family they came from. As you work to restructure how you think, I suggest requiring that all mental patterns must support your sense of feeling good about your existence. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two products).


Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You’ve recently been through some potent and meaningful astrology in your sign, bringing you into contact with both the complexity of who you are and any blockages to your ability to exist fully as your whole self. You’ve been learning what you can and cannot do, and who you can and cannot be. During Mercury’s recent retrograde in Pisces, important information came out that is now up for examination. Think of this process as being like washing clothes on an old-fashioned washing board. You lather, scrub, rinse and repeat. Through each scrub against the washing board a new layer of denial is peeled away. As you hang up each freshly scrubbed concept about who you are, you’ll be able to inspect it thoroughly without layers of issues getting in the way. In this process of examination, notice the connection between these concepts of ‘you’ and your sense of self-worth. The first step to reconciling these ideas is drawing a line between the two. — by Genevieve Hathaway

Order your 2013 reading from Eric Francis now, in LISTEN, the 2013 annual edition of Planet Waves. As a subscriber you can still get all 12 signs for the price of three. This is a detailed written and audio reading that you will love. You can also purchase signs one at a time (including audio and written, prior to our splitting those two product

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