The US is poised to formally enshrine marriage equality in law, as opposed to allowing the practice via Supreme Court fiat. Same sex marriage, first legalized in Massachusetts in 2003, was validated in all fifty states by the Obergefell v Hodges decision in 2015. But recent events with the overturning of Roe v Wade and its abandonment of federally guaranteed reproductive freedoms have shown just how fragile governance by judicial rulings can be, and advocates have been pushing hard for legal codification of the right to same-sex unions.
Just before midnight on Saturday, 19 November 2022, a man clad in body armor with an AR-15-style long rifle entered Club Q, an LGBTQ+ watering hole in a strip mall on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, Colorado, which was hosting a drag show that evening. He began shooting into the crowd, but was tackled two minutes later by two patrons and subdued until police arrived. In those two minutes, he had killed five and wounded 18 others.
When “Casablanca” was released in 1942, no one expected it would stand out among the hundreds of films churned out by Hollywood yearly, let alone achieve the iconic status it has. The film did reasonably well at the box office, but it wasn’t until it won the Academy Award for Best Picture that people began to take it seriously. Over the decades, “Casablanca” has earned an enduring place in movie-lovers’ hearts, with its star-studded leading players, supporting cast of popular ‘40s character actors, memorable dialogue, and iconic theme song, “As Time Goes By.” “Casablanca” regularly makes it to the top of the lists of the most popular movies of all time, and was one of the first films nominated by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry. It remains a personal favorite, and I never miss an opportunity to watch.
On November 20, 2022, US President Joe Biden turns eighty years old, the oldest person ever to serve in that office. Although he has not made his candidacy official, Biden routinely offers, when asked, that it is his “intention” to run for reelection in 2024, just shy of 82, which would make him 86 when he hands off to the next president in January of 2029. We’ll see.
On November 14, 2022, Charles III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will celebrate his 74th birthday, the first as King. Having served the longest apprenticeship in British royal history, Charles had been heir apparent for seventy years before his mother passed away in early September and the Prince of Wales finally came into his inheritance. It had been a long road. Once the world’s most eligible bachelor, Charles became half of the fairytale wedding of the 20th century, followed by scandal and divorce, and a second, controversial marriage with the love of his life. While kicking his heels for three-quarters of a century, Charles established The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, founded in 1979, which awards money to grant applicants in six categories: heritage and conservation, education, health and wellbeing, social inclusion, environment, and countryside. He is also a noted proponent of efforts to combat climate change and species extinction.
Going into the Midterm Elections on 8 November 2022, it was anyone’s guess what would happen. With a Lunar Eclipse that day which also directly incorporated both Mercury (the vote) and Uranus (shocks and surprises) pretty much any outcome was possible. With a Red Wave predicted to topple Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, inflation at record levels, gas prices rising again, and a president with low approval ratings, the Common Wisdom argued for a Republican resurgence. Historically, the Party which holds the White House tends to lose seats in the House of Representatives during its first Midterm, on average 28. Republicans had only to wrest five seats to gain control of the House, and just one to gain control of the Senate, which seemed like a walk in the park, given precedent.
It’s November, and Nature is retreating from her active stance, but even as she presses pause on another season of fruitfulness, there is color and beauty everywhere you turn. The bounty of the harvest is still visible in every roadside farmstand, with bevvies of pumpkins, gourds and squashes in every imaginable hue, from classic oranges and yellows to reds, pinks, greens, whites, greys, even black. Solid, spotted, banded, freckled or striped; warted, grooved, bumpy or smooth, there’s something for every taste, and all still appropriate as seasonal décor, inside or out, through the looming Thanksgiving holiday.
While Uranus exactly conjunct the Moon for the Lunar Eclipse on Election Day warns us to expect the unexpected, loss of control of the US House of Representatives does seem likely. Redistricting alone, in the wake of the 2020 census, should grant the Republicans ten more seats, more than enough to change the balance of power in the lower chamber and wrest the Speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi, even if all current Dem incumbents not caught up in that redistricting shift keep their seats.
So it’s in the Senate where the real drama will unfold. Currently split 50/50, Democrats maintain control (assuming they are all acting together, not always the case with consensus refuseniks like Manchin and Sinema in their ranks) due to VP Kamala Harris’ ability to break any ties in the administration’s favor. Earlier this year, the likelihood of Dems holding their fragile majority, perhaps even picking up a seat or two, seemed fairly high. But recent polling suggests Republicans are closing the gap, threatening Dem incumbents in some states, perhaps failing to pick up seats from retiring GOP senators in others. I’ve chosen three contests to profile, the winners of which will likely determine who ultimately controls the US Senate: Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia.
Such a tragedy will of course never occur, but the recent feature film of that name might be reflecting my personal reality. Halloween, at least to the extent that I’ve been celebrating it, might well be a thing of the past after this year. The mammoth undertaking of resetting the house and garden for Spooky Season is becoming more difficult every time, and took almost three weeks on this latest round. It’s an “undertaking” I’m not sure I can continue, so in case this year should be the last where I take things to the max, I decided to create a photo record of my efforts on behalf of the ghoulies, ghosties, and things that go bump in the night. Come join me on this “tour de fright.”
In a recent AAA post, I honored the 25th anniversary of the premiere of perhaps my favorite TV series of all time, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and opined at the article’s close about how much I missed seeing the show. Well, the syndication gods have smiled upon me, and just months later, “Buffy” retuned from the celluloid undead to brighten the screen via Comet TV. As faithful readers of this site will remember, October usually brings at least one horror-or-Halloween-related article, but after five years, I was running out of ideas. There didn’t seem the ghost of a chance that I’d find a suitable topic, and then my replay of “Buffy” paid off in a snippet I could sink my teeth into: birth data from the tombstone of a major character.
It’s that time of year again – Spooky Season! Over the years, AAA has amassed a cursed treasure trove of articles about all things Halloween, from themed pieces on witches, vampires, slasher films, horror actors and “Dark Shadows”, to tours of my home, original short stories and poems. In case you missed it, here’s a listing of horrific headlines to chill your blood or scratch that tingle:
MY HAUNTED HOUSE TOURS
ORIGINAL PROSE & POETRY
It’s ironic that Britain’s longest-reigning monarch should be succeeded by its shortest-serving Prime Minister, but that’s just what happened when Liz Truss stepped down from office after only 45 days in power. The fact that they both had the same first name is just icing on the cosmic cake in this bizarre juxtaposition. Truss stepped into the breach in the Conservative Party when embattled PM Boris Johnson resigned in the wake of scandal on July 7, but it took two months to wrap up those loose ends before she was officially appointed by Queen Elizabeth II on September 6. Now, just six weeks later, she’s gone.
After a fairly somnolent summer, the Atlantic hurricane season has been working overtime to make up the deficit, with two powerful storms wreaking havoc up and down the east coast of North America in the last week of September. Hurricane Fiona devastated areas of the Canadian Maritimes on the 24th, while Hurricane Ian pounded central Florida on the 28th with nightmarish winds and massive flooding, traversed the Sunshine State, then refueled in the Atlantic and turned its sights on the Carolinas.
On 21 September 2022, New York State Attorney General Letitia James won the race to be the first to charge Donald Trump with a crime. The former US President faces legal jeopardy on a variety of fronts, and the civil suit brought against Trump, his adult children Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka, and the Trump Organization may be the least harrowing, though, if successful, would devastate his business. A civil suit carries no threat of incarceration, but AG James stated in her press conference announcing the indictment that both state and federal laws were broken, and she will be making criminal referrals to both the US Attorney’s office at the Southern District of New York and the IRS.
Although national mourning and celebration of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s life has been protracted for more than ten days after her passing, the official State Funeral ceremony is slated to begin in Westminster Abbey at 11 AM BST on Monday, 19 September 2022. Much of the passing chart remains in effect, but there are significant changes and additions which reflect the funeral itself.
It’s been a hot, dry summer, and I’m not sorry to see it go. Total rainfall for July on the property was three quarters of an inch – yeah, you read that right! “Normal” (whatever that means anymore) is about five inches. August was little better, with just an inch and a third by late month. Temps were above average, too – Philadelphia experienced one of the hottest summers on record, with more than thirty days seeing highs of 90+, and the hottest average temperature ever for July and August.
She advised 15 Prime Ministers, interacted with 14 American presidents and 7 popes, but the long life and seventy-year reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II came to a peaceful close on 8 September 2022, when the 96-year-old sovereign passed away in her sleep at her private estate of Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Most of the United Kingdom’s population – indeed, most of the world – cannot recall a time when Elizabeth was not Queen; her reign spanned the post-World War II era to our post-Modern society, and her life saw massive technological change, from telegraphs to Twitter.
No, this article is not about the nation’s acid reflux problem. It’s about the interplay of two Main Belt asteroids and how they affect the mood of the American populace. Asteroid America was in fact named for the US, so it’s no surprise we find it useful in describing events important to the country. Asteroid Agita, while technically named for Agita Tarasova, a relatively obscure science worker and computer programmer at the Astronomical Observatory of the Latvian University, also works both for the medical definition of the term (basically, heartburn), and for its more colloquial usage as general upset, turmoil, agitation and anxiety.
If anyone had told me two decades ago that I would be admiring, let alone praising, someone with the last name of “Cheney”, I’d have said they were nuts. But that’s just the sort of uncomfortable position many progressives find themselves in these days, when contemplating the recent performance of Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), daughter of the former Vice President, vis-a-vis the actions of Donald Trump and the bastardization of the GOP.
On 12 August 2022 Salman Rushdie, 75, famed author of “The Satanic Verses”, was attacked in public as he was being introduced for a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Hadi Matar, 24, rushed the stage and flung himself on Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times in the face, neck and abdomen. Airlifted from a nearby ball field to Erie Hospital, Rushdie remains on a ventilator, unable to speak; his agent stated that he may lose an eye and has extensive liver damage, as well as severed nerves in his arm.
On Monday, 8 August 2022, FBI agents executed a legal search warrant of former US president Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida, looking for classified documents still in his possession. When leaving the White House in January 2021, Trump absconded with reams of classified material, in violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, and the National Archives has been trying to get them back ever since. In February, 15 boxes of such papers were returned, but investigators had cause to believe this was not the extent of the purloined trove, and a legal pas-de-deux had been danced between the Justice Department and Trump lawyers for months since, with negotiations and subpoenas having little effect.
She was once the toast of Manhattan society, but the recently deceased Ivana Trump, ex-wife of the former president, now rests in her gold-tone casket at a barely marked plot overlooking the first hole at her former husband’s Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Why? The tax break, of course! The Donald (a nickname given to Trump by his erstwhile wife, and which stuck) never saw a write-off he didn’t like, or fail to grasp a grift. In burying Ivana at Bedminster, the property now qualifies as a cemetery, bringing tax relief galore. New Jersey’s tax code exempts all cemetery land from all taxes, rates, and assessments, and includes no minimum on occupancy, so one human remain would suffice (though allegedly plans are in the works to dump the entire family there in due “course”). For now, Ivana’s grave is graced with a simple plaque bearing just her name, and the dates of her birth and death.
On Saturday, 30 July 2022, two actresses whose work is embedded in American nostalgia took leave of this life: Nichelle Nichols, 89, who played Lieutenant Uhura on the 1960’s sci-fi series “Star Trek”, reprising the role in several feature films; and Pat Carroll, 95, a staple of television for decades with supporting and guest roles on sitcoms and game shows, most likely known to more modern audiences as the voice of Ursula in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Torrential rains drenching eastern Kentucky in late July led to massive flooding on July 28, 2022, particularly of isolated rural communities in the poorest areas of Appalachia, where rivers and creeks swelled to overflow their banks by as much as 20 feet, filling the hollows and washing away some homes and businesses, inundating others in feet of standing water. Hardest-hit areas received 8-10 inches of rainfall within 48 hours. As of this writing (July 31) 26 are dead and dozens more still missing, while continued rain forecasts imperil search efforts and threaten to exacerbate an already tragic situation. Among the dead are four young siblings from Montgomery, Kentucky: Maddison, Riley, Nevaeh and Chance Noble, aged 2 to 8, torn from their parent’s arms by the current’s grip as the family’s mobile home was swept away.
It didn’t quite make it to fifty, but for almost half a century legal abortion has been the law of the land here in the US. No more.
On June 24, 2022, the gavel fell on Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision guaranteeing reproductive rights, overturned 5-4 by the current US Supreme Court. The test case which led to Roe’s reversal was Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which sought to prevent a Mississippi state law virtually eliminating abortion after 15 weeks from conception. That law was upheld 6-3, but Chief Justice John Roberts joined the progressive minority on the Court when Roe itself became the target of his conservative colleagues.
On 1 June 2022, a Fairfax, Virginia jury found for plaintiff Johnny Depp in a defamation suit brought against his former wife Amber Heard, awarding the actor $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Heard, who had countersued for defamation, was vindicated on one count, and received $2 million in compensation, though no punitive damages were awarded.
By now we’ve all heard of the tragic events at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last week, on May 24th, where Salvador Ramos killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers, after shooting his grandmother. Ramos used two AR-15 assault-style weapons on his rampage, which he had purchased within days of his 18th birthday the week prior. It’s taken far too long for accurate details of the crime to emerge, with conflicting, not to say contradictory, reports about Ramos’ entry to the school, and a mystifying 40-minute delay in active response by law enforcement before terminating the gunman as a threat, exposing an astounding level of incompetence.
Election Day 2022 promises to be quite a stunner, a supercharged day which is, ultimately, unpredictable. Held November 8, the day features multiple activations of Uranus, the planet of the shocking and unexpected, disruption, turmoil, revolution and change, including a conjunction by the Moon and oppositions from the Sun and Mercury. As well, it’s the day of the Sun/Mercury conjunction, and the Sun/Moon opposition, which just happens to be a total Lunar Eclipse!
The 2022 Kentucky Derby came to a startling and unexpected “Wow!” finish, as long shot Rich Strike came from behind in the last furlong to cross the finish line ahead of favorites Epicenter and Zandon. At odds of 80-1, Rich Strike’s victory was the second-greatest upset in Derby history, and paid off handsomely for the few clairvoyants who saw it coming. And it almost didn’t happen; as of 8:45 the previous morning, Rich Strike wasn’t even slated to run, but a last-minute scratch by Ethereal Road opened up a spot with two minutes to spare before the 9 AM deadline for registration.
On April 22, 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a mean-spirited, retaliatory Bill meant to punish Disney World for its outspoken opposition to his so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans discussion of same-sex and transgender orientation in primary public schools in the Sunshine State, signed by the governor the month before. The new legislation revokes the Disney World theme park’s special status as a self-governing enclave within Florida, allowing it to function as a municipal or county government, providing its own electrical grid, security, emergency, medical, fire and rescue services, in exchange for special tax status in the state. DeSantis pushed for the law after Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek publicly denounced the anti-gay legislation, and announced a reassessment of Disney’s political contribution policy.
On April 4, 2022, a dear feline friend, Emmett, passed away. Emmett was the daughter of Embers, my cat Ashes’ sister, and thus her niece and a close relation, part of our extended family. She was fur baby to my longtime friend, former landlord and cat rescue partner John Mignone, and is survived by her sister Maxine. Emmette passed of complications from failing kidneys due to hyperthyroidism.
The United States Supreme Court just got a little more diversified, with the history-making confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as its newest Associate Justice, the first black woman to sit on the bench. Jackson was confirmed by the full Senate on Thursday, April 7, with a bipartisan vote of 53-47, and will replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer when the new session convenes in October. A native of Washington DC, Jackson was raised in Florida, is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School (where she edited the “Harvard Law Review”), and previously clerked for the Justice she is replacing.
Vladimir Putin has dominated Russian politics for almost a quarter century. A former KGB officer, Putin entered politics after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, an event he describes as the greatest tragedy of the Twentieth Century. In 1996 he joined Boris Yeltsin’s administration; appointed as prime minister in 1999, he filled the role of acting president when Yeltsin resigned later that year, being elected to the office in 2000. At the time, Russia had a prohibition on an individual serving more than two consecutive terms as president, so after being reelected in 2004, in 2008 Putin swapped jobs with then prime minister Dmitry Medvedev for a term, only to assume the top spot again in the following election, four years later. That would have entitled him to two more terms, but Putin changed the law to allow himself to run for an additional two terms uninterrupted, potentially continuing his occupancy of the presidency indefinitely.
On Thursday, 24 February 2022, at approximately 5 AM local time, Vladimir Putin’s Russian Army invaded Ukraine, accelerating a process of intimidation and aggression that had begun eight years before with the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, and had continued with support for separatist movements in Ukraine’s easternmost sectors, bordering Russia, specifically portions of the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the Donbass region. Since the beginning of the year, a series of planetary stations had reflected the inexorable march to war, eight cosmic turning points which built upon each other like tumblers in a lock, eventually unleashing the conflict.
In 2022 the United States is undergoing a profound and deeply transformative period in its development, namely the return of Pluto to its natal degree. Pluto’s orbit is roughly 248 years, so this is a cosmic event that no human has ever experienced, but it can occur for longer-lived entities such as nation-states. The historical record for what transpires at these times is mixed at best, and subject also to such interruptions and mutations as major political reorganization. (Is it really valid, for example, to continue using a chart for the Norman Conquest of England for today’s United Kingdom, a different political entity entirely, albeit with a titular head-of-state whose ancestry dates back to those days?) As well, when such charts are used, we may see recurrent themes under successive Pluto Returns for the same country, but not necessarily among all countries.
Don’t you ever wonder how this all works? I know I do. After 15+ years of intense engagement with asteroids, I’m no closer to an answer, but sometimes I like to revel in how even the most mundane of mundane events can be reflected in the stars. On January 28th, two Biden-related stories made the news – a bridge in Pittsburgh, PA collapsed just hours before a presidential visit touting the need for repair of crumbling infrastructure; and the White House acquired a new furry occupant, a grey tabby cat with jade-green eyes named Willow.
Tensions continue to increase on the border between Ukraine and Russia, where more than 100,000 Russian troops have recently been stationed, in what appears to be a build-up to an invasion. Russia began a piecemeal takeover of its neighbor in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea, followed by further border incursions into adjoining Ukrainian enclaves dominated by its military and local separatist groups wanting to reunite the two nations, as they were under Soviet hegemony. Reports that families of Russian diplomatic staffers in Ukraine were evacuated in early January heightened the sense of impending crisis.
Not since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 has a freshman congressperson made such a stunning impact in the House of Representatives as Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), quickly emerging as an avatar for the extremist fringe of her Party. Greene latched onto the Trumpist base with all the furor of a Sarah-Palin-inspired “pit bull in lipstick”, hawking every conspiracy theory to come within range while endorsing the lynching of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and the assassination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Not surprisingly, Donald Trump strongly supported her candidacy, calling her “a future Republican star.” Since his departure from the Oval Office, he and Greene have exchanged phone calls frequently, with the newly minted Representative planning a visit to Mar-a-Lago soon, to kiss the ring: “Great news is, he supports me 100%, and I’ve always supported him,” tweeted Greene.
By Constitutional fiat, all US administrations begin at 12 Noon on the January 20th following a general election, regardless of when the oath of office is actually sworn. This provides a celestial continuity from decade to decade, with all administrations having an early Aquarius Sun conjunct a late Capricorn MC, and a mid-Taurus Ascendant (unless begun by the death or resignation of the previous office holder). But within that rigid framework, the permutations are virtually endless, especially when asteroids are considered.
On Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, the Feast of the Epiphany, Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to prevent Congress’ counting and certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, preparatory to his inauguration two weeks later. Doors were forced, windows broken, as insurrectionists fresh from a Trump rally mere blocks away which featured an in-person address from the President took control from Capitol Police and security, who offered minimal resistance to the crowd, estimated in the tens of thousands. The Senate and House were evacuated, put on lockdown, as legislators cowered in safe spaces or barricaded themselves in their offices to avoid the mob.
On Thursday 25 April 2019 former Vice President Joe Biden entered the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Biden’s Macbeth routine, “letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’,” was wearing thin, and at his announcement Biden joined an already crowded field of some twenty rivals who dove into the political (cess)pool ahead of him. Before officially becoming a candidate, Biden’s name recognition kept him at the top of most polls; now that he’s an actual contender, that may change. Fast.
On Sunday, 27 January 2019, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) officially kicked off her 2020 presidential campaign in her home town of Oakland, California, before a crowd estimated at some 20,000. Harris is the former Attorney General of California, elected to the US Senate in 2016. As a mixed race child of a Jamaican father and a Tamil Indian mother, Harris is the first potentially viable candidate who is a woman of color to run for president. Her candidacy will electrify liberals and promote progressive goals, such as universal pre-K, debt-free college, and Medicare for all, and a long career in law enforcement may help to remove the “soft on crime” sting that many conservatives will attempt to apply.
When the 116th Congress convenes on January 3rd, 2019, it’s likely to have a most remarkable woman at its head. If chosen Speaker by the incoming Democratic majority in US the House of Representatives, it won’t be Nancy Pelosi’s first crack at wielding the gavel. The California-based Representative made history in 2007 when she became the first female Speaker of the House, a post she held until the 2010 electoral rout against the Affordable Care Act, spearheaded by the Tea Party, tossed Democrats out of power for 8 years. But progressives and Pelosi are back, and 2018’s Blue Wave has once again turned the tide in DC.