The Dogs of Dumbarton


by Roxanne Tellier

There is a century-old bridge in Scotland, just northwest of Glasgow, called Overtoun. For many years, dogs have felt compelled to leap from the bridge to their death on the rocks below. More than 300 canines have leaped from the ‘dog suicide bridge, ‘ with 50 or more dogs said to have died from their injuries.

dumbarton bridgeThe people of Dumbarton are very superstitious, as befits those who live near this place which the pagan Celts would have called a ‘thin place’ – a place where heaven and earth overlap. While some believe that the dogs’ lemming-like plunges are due to a limited visual perspective, others believe that the dogs are mesmerized by the appearance of a White Lady, which only the canines can see.

I see a similarity in the voting habits of many humans in the last several years. Like the dogs, they have lost all perspective, and now follow conmen whose merits are only visible to themselves. And in the choosing of those transparently bad and corrupt leaders, they plunge themselves  – and the rest of us – off a cliff, where we land, battered and bruised, without decent healthcare.

reaction to carbon tax canadaTake the carbon tax policy that went into effect this week. Premier Ford opted Ontario out of the federal government’s Canada wide restrictions. Stern Conservative leaders had themselves photographed on the last day of March, pumping into their gas guzzling SUVs what they claimed to be the last of the ‘cheap’ fuel Ontario had enjoyed under Ford.

Meanwhile, Ford’s team were putting together an almost identical program, with almost identical fees, which is currently on hold. Instead of working with the feds, Ford wants Ontario to use his own plan, and thereby keep control of the funds that will accrue.

In order to have his way, he’ll have to drag a multi million dollar lawsuit against Canada thru the courts. (I don’t think we can afford this guy – every plan he has to make the province money, costs twice the amount the province could possibly make from his flighty schemes.)

Predictably, social media went mad when the media and trolls flooded them with information, disinformation, and photos of smug politicians on both sides of the board. Also predictably, most of the unqualified and uneducated Facebook opiners had to foist their own takes on the situation into every conversation, and trumpet the virtues of Team Ford vs Team Canada. Both teams like to think that they have all of the answers, despite the question being far beyond their pay grade.

In the face of the nearly unanimous global agreement of economists and environmentalists that a price has to be set onto pollution of all kinds, to combat climate change damage some believe would be more damaging than the impact of an actual world war, Team Ford not only rejected a carbon tax, they insinuated, without any proof,  that the taxes would be fraudulently appropriated by the federal government, and never used to combat climate change.

nobel 2018 carbon taxAnd while our keyboard warriors decried Canada’s plan as being just another useless and toothless tax,  William Nordhaus and Paul Romer were accepting the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics, for their work that proves that carbon pricing is an effective solution.

QUOTE: ” Nordhaus argues that the most sensible response to climate externalities is also straightforward: price carbon pollution.

In his recent Climate Casino  book, Nordhaus argues the pricing of carbon achieves four objectives: it sends signals to consumers about which goods and services are more carbon-intensive; it sends signals to producers about which activities are most carbon-intensive (such as coal burning) and which are less carbon-intensive (like solar or wind); it sends signals to propel innovation to find new, affordable alternatives; and finally, pricing is the best means to convey these signals within well-functioning markets.”  (International Institute for Sustainable Development, April 2019)

Now … COME ON, guys. We have got to stop being Debbie Downer about every possible attempt made at combating the most serious problem of our time, and of your children’s and grandchildren’s future – climate change.

arguing with the immature mindWe must ask ourselves why?, when we cannot see our own selfishness in refusing to help alleviate the myriad of problems we face globally, from homelessness, to inequality, and the plight of immigrants and refugees.  We need to stop giving in to a negative desire to prevent the placement of even so much as a Band-Aid on the gaping, oozing wounds of the planet’s most vulnerable.

“Help feed the refugees of Syria!”

“Oh no, you don’t! We have our own hungry and homeless to worry about!”

This sort of rebuttal sounds reasonable on the surface – after all, we DO have vulnerable people in Canada! The argument seems to be that if there are two groups of people suffering, we are only capable of saving one, and we’re ok with letting the other group die.

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, that should not be our response. Nor should the person requesting help for one segment of the population be made to feel that it is down to her, personally, to tend to ALL segments of the population before being allowed to brighten the corner where she lives. Her contribution, no matter how small, should be acknowledged and lauded.

climate change how concernedWhat actually happens when we demand perfection before we will attempt to aid, is that we shut down ALL aid being given. And by demanding that we wait until there is a free, politically correct, universal remedy for climate change and the control of carbon, we doom our country and our planet to doing absolutely nothing to help ourselves, leaving our kids and grandkids to a future with neither clean air nor water.

I can’t watch that and not protest inaction.

The average human attention span has declined from about 12 seconds, in the year 2000, to the average span of a mere eight seconds in 2018.  That’s one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

We are not concentrating. We are distracted, by loud noises, by bright lights, by the person who plays on our darkest fears, and feeds us with gluten free bread and circuses.

We are so very easily swayed.

jussie smollettRemember when we were all livid over the attack on actor Jussie Smollette, a few weeks ago? Remember how we all leapt to his defence, instantly believing his version of the story, and how we were furious that the police were not taking it as seriously as we thought they should because … well  … this looked very like a racist attack, triggered by Trump supporters?

Remember how it felt when it turned out it was all an act, a lie? Remember how some of us didn’t want to believe that it was a lie, and how some insisted that Smollette was telling the truth, and that the police were just racist? Remember  seeing the actual props that the attackers, who turned out to be his athletic advisors, purchased with the money he had given them? And remember how many people refused to give up on Smollette’s lie, despite all of the verifiable evidence proving his guilt?

Yeah, We’re doing that again with our national over-reaction to Jody Wilson-Rayboult, and the SNC-Lavalin ‘scandal.’

All is not as white or black – or red, as some have declared.

I’m not going to get into my opinion on this tempest in a Philpot – it’s my opinion, and you probably have your own. And each of us has the right to that opinion. But neither of our opinions are hard fact – they are just our reactions and interpretations of the stimuli we’ve chosen to embrace and accept as OUR truth.

As humans pretending to be socialized and civilized, we should be horrified at how we now react to those who disagree with what we ourselves believe.

fake news how to stopOnce upon a time, people would read a newspaper, or watch a news program on television, and then discuss the events of the day. Not everyone would agree, but that just meant that each side would attempt to sway the other side by showing facts, statistics, photographs, or charts from reputable sources, to support their beliefs.

Now, it is rare that we even reach a consensus upon which newspaper is the most honest, or which news station actually shows us what is really going on in our towns, cities, or nations. When two sides disagree, neither side has a lot of faith in the other side’s argument. If side one’s reliable source is not accepted by side two as reputable, and the same is true from the other side, how do you reach an equitable conclusion?

The definition of ‘fake news’ cannot be simply any thing, photo, or fact that disagrees with the opinions you hold dear. That way lies madness. That way can only create a Tower of Babel, where nothing can progress, because no one can communicate clearly the things that need to be done to ensure that all people have a future, be it ever so humble.

We have to understand, as we carve our families, societies, and nations into smaller and smaller warring factions unable to hear each other’s cries, that our inability to concentrate, communicate, and work together for progress, has left us as helpless and suicidal as the dogs of Dumbarton.

we borrow the earth from our children

 

 

Does this Mueller Report Make Trump’s Ass Look Fat?


by Roxanne Tellier

Please Note: I wrote this on the morning of March 24th, and, like all days since Trump’s inauguration, additional info, obfuscation, and possibly, even more obstruction in the Barr four page note on the Report, happened immediately thereafter.

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to be a blogger or a journalist, this time period is either exhilarating, or utterly exhausting… For me, it’s a little of both. Anyway…  here we go…

……………………………………………………………….

FOX News is trying to spike the ball on it already, declaring total victory for Trump before anyone has even seen what is in the statement, and despite the results of a poll of their own viewers showing that a majority of Americans believe that the president tried to interfere in the investigation.

mueller report

In other news, the president has threatened the American people with his quasi Brown Shirts enforcement crews of military, police and motorcycle heavies, should the evidence contain anything that hurts his standing or feelings .. but mostly his feelings.

All because the Mueller Report dropped on Friday, This is the 500 plus page compendium that Mueller handed in to Attorney General William Barr, a Trump supporter, recently elevated to replace former AG Jeff “Keebler Elf” Sessions.

sessions barr AGTo recap, Sessions recused himself from the Trump-Russia probe on March 2, 2017, and then found he’d become the butt of Trump’s fury nearly every day thereafter, until he resigned/was fired on November 7, 2018.

Just as I was thinking to myself, hmmm .. wouldn’t you think that a pivotal post like Attorney General for all of the American people should be a bipartisan office?, this came over the social media transom ….

” … CNN reports that McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been hired as an attorney in the White House counsel’s office, where he’ll “advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency.” While the division is separate from the legal team that defends Trump in the Russia investigation—a group of leading lights that includes Rudy “maybe there was collusion” Giuliani—its work nevertheless does “intersect with the investigation.” (Trump reportedly blamed former White House counsel Don McGahn for failing to bring the probe to a close.) Meanwhile, Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter, will be leaving her current job in the deputy attorney general’s office for a gig at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has had its own Russian intrigues.”

This is how potentially explosive political info is handled, in Trump’s Bizarro World. “Nice kids you got there.. would be a pity if something… happened … to him .. or her … “

Every day, in every way, the Trump administration is penning an alternative American history that weaves Mafia style organized crime intrigue along it’s white supremacist backbone. It’s like we’re living in a chronicle of our times in the form of a forced literary mating of The Godfather and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Be that as it may, Trump, his ‘friends,’ and those who profit from his administration, have softened the ground well in advance of the release of the report; they’ve made sure that his base and the undecided see any rejoicing over this report as a ‘piling on’ by the Dems, and a celebration prior to a launch of a charge of impeachment, rather than what it is … an attempt to pull back the curtain on a very real attack on the American electoral system – as broken as it may be – by a hostile foreign power.

trump not legit presThe Mueller Report’s primary question is, Did Donald Trump collude with Russia to win the presidency? 

And the follow up, unspoken but explosively critical second question would be, “If it is found conclusively that he did, is he actually the legitimate current president of the United States?”

At this point we have no idea if those questions have even been definitely answered. All we have is the hope of a hero, in the form of Mueller, offering us the reassurance that there can be a return to order, that real leadership is in our future, and that our faith can eventually be both earned and restored by those whom we have elevated to positions of great power.

To my mind, there should really never have been any confusion over whether or not Trump was working with the Russians. Prior to the election, he stood in front of a televised rally, and said, ” “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” It appears that they were, since that night, Russian hackers tried to get into Clinton’s personal email.

That’s what actually happened, even as Trump and his minions tried to laugh off the comment as a joke, and the hack as a coincidence – even as he continued to repeat the same request on Twitter.

donald_tweet Russia emails” What, you’ve never jokingly invited a hostile foreign power to compromise your nation’s cyber-security before?” (Vanity Fair headline)

And we also knew that they had indeed fiddled with the election .. by June 2017, it was being reported in Bloomberg and other major business and political journals.

putin hacked electionRussia’s cyber attack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.
In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

Now, make no mistake, the very idea that a candidate for president of the United States – or an actual president who blithely fires heads of justice departments, and discloses highly classified security information to Russian foreign ministers while they dally in the Oval Office – might be compromised by a hostile foreign power, should be of interest to the average citizen.

But sadly, that’s not really the case. Jane and Joe Citizen have a life to lead, kids to raise, a mortgage to pay. For most, political or military history is just trivia to everyone except aspiring Jeopardy contestants. There hasn’t been a ‘war’ on American soil since the Aleutian Islands Campaign of 1942. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War are baby boomer lore, and “Russia – tear down that wall!” is nothing but a bit of Reaganology.  In polls taken around 2016, 55% of Americans thought that Russia was America’s enemy and unfriendly, but 25% were unsure, and 19% thought Russia was a friendly nation.

America is just not that into Russia.

Russia, on the other hand, has a long history of anti-Americanism, a simmering, seething hatred of the United States, and a belief that the U.S. is Enemy Number One. Russia doesn’t forget easily, and Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, has no soft spot for America or her president, despite Trump’s belief that he and Vlad are BFFs.

Truthfully,  given Mueller’s mandate for the report, there should be little new information for anyone but those who’ve lived in an underground bunker since the summer of 2016.

Don’t be waiting for any juicy bits of gossip or innuendo about Trump’s money laundering or corruption – that’s the stuff that Mueller passed on to the Southern District of New York and other justice departments better able to service the subpoenas already issued, and the almost one hundred rumoured subpoenas still being held under lock and key for the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.. soon come, mon ….

Like Al Capone, whom the justice system pursued for nearly a decade before he was brought down for tax evasion, there’s an array of Trump/GOP criminality that has been, and is being, committed in plain view, every day, since the inauguration, and it’s only now that some of these tangled webs are getting straightened out. It’s exhausting, watching the swamp attain new depths daily. I think a lot of people started to believe it was unstoppable by anything but supernatural means.

“Mueller’s report is likely geared not towards telling a story, or answering non-criminal questions, but toward fulfilling the purpose of the regulation – that is, explaining his prosecutorial decisions. Unless Mueller understands his role especially grandly, the report is likely not designed to fill the oversight shoes of Congress, or to assist the legislature’s role in the impeachment process. Yet unless the report is particularly spare in factual detail, that will not stop politicians and commentators for redeploying it for all sorts of other purposes.” (Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare)

mueller takes down trumpToo many have been content to believe that it would have to be the Mueller Report, acting as a magic wand, that would finally stop the flow of corruption.

Instead, the reality is that all of the indictments, trials, and actual criminal records earned by advisors, his personal lawyer, and campaign manager, just to name a few, have to be served and serviced by the proper jurisdictions, advocates, and criminal lawyers charged with pursuing gross abuses of power and criminality. These are the people who will take down the bad guys, not Mueller

Mueller had his mandate, but, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we have always had the power to ‘go home’ – we just kept waiting for a house to fall on the evil witch, rather than expecting our justice department surrogates to find their hearts, brains and courage, click together their legal heels, and start arresting these unusual suspects.

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And yet another of our priceless Toronto musical treasures, singer/songwriter Joe Hall, has left the building. Rest well, Joe.joe hall It is with profound sadness that I have to announce the death on Friday of my dear old friend and collaborator Joe Hall. We just brought out a new recording in December…in his opinion and mine, the best ever. He will be missed, he was unique. He was the only Canadian songwriter I would seriously compare to Leonard Cohen.” Tony Quarrington

From his website: ” He’s been compared to everyone from Frank Zappa to Tom Waits, but Joe Hall is a true original, whose sharp wit, insightful social commentary, and wildly entertaining stage presence made him one of Canada’s legendary folk rockers. A fixture of the 70s Queen St scene in Toronto with his band The Continental Drift, Joe has called Peterborough home for 25 years and continues to play, record and tour ”

 

 

The Butterfly Effect


I’m not sure if I’m blessed or cursed to have a fairly large amount of time in my life in which I can spend hours down the rabbit hole of the Internet, researching and following any thread that interests me.

meeting of the mindsI can spend days, even weeks, deep diving into all things esoteric and non. In an ideal world, I would live in a salon, where others of like minds would join me in this intellectual pursuit, and we would solve all of the mysteries of the universe.

Until that day arrives, the world and it’s distractions will continue to impede my potential band of mystery solving superheroes.

The imminent destruction of a small butterfly sanctuary on the American/Mexican border caught my attention recently. While this is by no means as horrific as the sadistic practices trump’s Homeland Security goons wage against refugees and immigrants, it is, nonetheless, notable. 

butterly effectCan small things, matters almost imperceptible in a larger picture, change the world? Can a tiny event, hardly noticeable on the day it happens, serve as a catalyst for a planet’s future?

“some systems … are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behavior.John Gribbin, Deep Simplicity

People are funny; some are hypersensitive to changes in systems, while others simply cannot understand long term consequences. For some, it’s willful blindness, but for others, it covers up a truth that might irreparably damage their psyche if faced. Better to not believe one’s own eyes than to have to admit that some small, likely unimportant act – or lack of acting! – might have long term, and horribly dangerous consequences.

for the want of a nail

If we are to believe that our actions have consequences, how do we live with ourselves when we fail to act in proactive and logical ways? if we know that eating certain foods will make us ill, how do we rationalize our actions when our food and beverage intake is reflected in damage to our bodies? If we are made aware that smoking cigarettes damages the lungs of both the smokers and the non-smokers that breathe in those fumes, how do we come to grips with the illness or death of a loved one who passively inhaled what we exhaled?

climate change is not just politicalIf we are told that 97% of climate scientists believe that our disrespect for the planet will cause untold harm to not just those living on this earth, but on the generations to come, how can we not look at the havoc we continue to inflict on the globe, and not feel sick at what our greed and selfishness has wrought?

Many of us vehemently DON’T want to believe that something tiny and barely noticeable could affect our lives … psychologically, that’s called proportionality bias: the inclination to believe that big events must have big causes.

That’s what leads so many to become conspiracy theorists. In any given year, roughly half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, according to the University of Chicago‘s political science professors Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood. Without the slightest trace of evidence, 19% of Americans believe the U.S. government planned the 9/11 attacks to start a war in the Middle East, while 24% believed in Trump’s ‘birtherism‘ theory that claimed former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.9 11 files

Today, 61% of Americans remain convinced that the official Warren Commission report on Lee Harvey Oswald’s part in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, is incorrect – they believe that he could not have acted on his own. And since the 1963 tragedy, the number of disbelievers has never dropped below 50%; proportionality bias tells them that one man, with one bullet, could not have so dramatically changed the course of history all on his own.

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

In 1961, chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, was brought to prominence in a work written by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. While running a numerical computer model to redo a weather prediction concerning the details of a tornado, he entered the initial condition 0.506 from the printout instead of entering the full precision 0.506127 value.

The tiny change brought about a completely different weather scenario result, and highlighted the sensitive interdependence on conditions that could result in very large differences in expectations, with just a small change in calculation.

The term, ‘butterfly effect‘ was actually the second name given to this phenomena. Lorenz originally used a sea gull’s wings to describe the theory.

” One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls”

butterfly killerColleagues suggested that changing ‘sea gull’ to ‘butterfly’ would be more poetic, but it was not until 1972, when he was wondering how to title a talk he was giving on the subject, that colleague Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?  as a title.

I can’t help but wonder if those scientists might have been influenced by the 1952 story, The Sound of Thunder, written by Ray Bradbury, in which a time travelling hunter changes the future, by stepping on a butterfly, 65 million years in the past.

In the short story, set in 2055, a man named Eckels travels back in time to shoot and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But he panics at the sight of the beast, and accidentally steps off the path that he has been warned that he must follow. When his hunting party returns to their present, everything has changed, right down to the language that people are speaking, and it is apparent that an evil dictator is now in control of the nation.

 

Bradbury writes: “Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it cannot be. Not a little thing like that. No!”

Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.

It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”

Ford as Dear LeaderAh, to speculate on all of the apparently insignificant moments that shape destinies and alter our times and history! While we may not recognize them, when they happen, or for what they portend, threads of cause and effect are created.

And in time, those moments can change the course of a human life or of a peoples’, eventually impacting  everything from our fashion to our emotions and our health, from our politics, to our economies and our very planet.

Best to have a little humility in the knowledge that our fates and futures can be sidetracked by something as fragile as a butterfly’s wings, in a time of chaos.

tags: Roxanne Tellier, Butterfly Effect, Internet, Homeland Security, John Gribbin, Barack Obama , Warren Commission , John F. Kennedy, Good Omens, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, chaos theory, Edward Lorenz., The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury

The Long Road From Normal


desktop computing 90sA long, long time ago, I used to play chess. Not very well, to be honest; I was probably a better backgammon player if anything. Or maybe I wasn’t all that great at either.

But here’s the thing .. I’ve played neither of those games in… gotta be nearly three decades. First, it was computers … when I fell under their spell, that was it for spare time. I was enthralled, seduced by DOS and data bases. I tend to get pretty intense when I dive into a new interest.

And then I got into politics – headfirst and totally submerged. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been following politics seriously for about the last six years, but, you see .. I didn’t really need to before that. Things were ticking along pretty well – we didn’t get too far forward, but we also didn’t fall too far behind. Business as usual, really. And I was busy.

But then there was Harper. Oh, he’d been around for a while before he really started getting up my nose, but there came a point when I realized that his political trajectory was going to take Canada to places that most of those I consider friends and family, really didn’t want him to visit.

As things heated up towards the 2015 federal election, there were more and more issues in which Harper’s ultra-conservative bent seemed contrary to real growth for Canadians. Austerity measures in Canada worked against future prosperity, and his government’s penchant for secrecy and overreach of government powers of surveillance, especially in the drafting of Bill C51, felt way too much like a Big Brother usurpation of civil liberties.

Harper represented an old guard that was terrified of losing power, and determined to hold on, by force if necessary. Trudeau seemed a breath of fresh air, a loosening of your grandfather’s prohibitive rules, and a step into a better Canada.

And then along came Trump, and the world was never the same again. And probably will never be the same again, in my lifetime.

Now, the weird thing is, I knew, right away, from the day Trump swept down that escalator with Melanoma, like Boris and Natasha, that he was going to be the worst, most disturbing, and most damaging person, to ever happen to America.

trump melania escalatorFor a while I had recapped his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and so this cast of characters were mildly familiar to me. This crew of misfit toys believed that they were the equivalent of American royalty, and displayed the same sort of quasi lèse majesté /insanity so often found from that mix of inbreeding and narcissism. The Trump family were petty tyrants – and they hadn’t even begun to tyrant.

Once inaugurated, I knew he and his family of damaged goods were going to rape America, pillage it’s treasures, and then burn it to the ground, before salting the earth, to prevent further generations from bringing it back to life.

chosen by god to make fun of trumpBut as bad as I thought he might be – he’s worse.

For at least the first year of Trump’s tenure, myself and a very large crop of ‘resisters’ lived on high alert, watching an administration filled with the worst appointees in history, picked solely for their ability to bring down every supporting pillar of democracy and justice, set to the destruction of America in as short a time as possible.

And, oh my .. wasn’t there a lot to see!

Amy Siskind‘s The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year, compiled a list of actions taken by the Trump regime that posed a threat to our democratic norms. Under the headline “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” Siskind’s Weekly List began as a project she shared with friends, but soon went viral. (Amazon)

resist mugDr Stuart Shapiro, a teacher of macroenomics at Rutgers Bloustein School of Public Policy, kept a diary of his own Facebook comments, titled, Not Normal: A Progressive’s Diary of the Year After Trump’s Election

In it, he chronicled his reactions to the incidents, tweets and policy proposals instigated by the new administration in it’s first year. His palpable exhaustion as the nation lurched from surprise to surprise, and outrage to outrage is a helpful reminder that no other presidency in recorded history ever dominated the news cycles as thoroughly and unceasingly as this one has.

And then there was my favourite guilty pleasure … The Resistance by Keith Olbermann

Truthfully, within a year of Trump’s reign, the general definition of ‘normal’ was no more – crushed under the weight of executive orders and a display of greed, arrogance, and corruption so vivid and intense that it often threatened to blind me.

mr corruption

Oh, sure, the Old Guard flailed about, and those bipartisan lawmakers remaining managed to get the Robert Mueller investigation into play, but the Republican party stood firm that their Dear Leader and his demented whims were how those once United States would now be run.

Every time Trump or any of his minions were caught for wrong doing, they immediately cried victim. But really, it is Jane and Joe American and their kids who have paid the price for this poor presidential pick.

Most of the time, I don’t really blame Jane and Joe for falling under the spell of a politician. When you’re trying to raise a family and make a living, a lot gets put aside, to be dealt with sometime later .. maybe after the kids go to bed. It’s all part of a life cycle; someone’s gotta be keeping those home centres and toy companies in business. I can totally understand why the average person – say from 30 to 50 years of age – absorbs no more than the loudest or most eye-catching information that goes on around them.

It just becomes really difficult to keep on giving the Trump Cult that benefit of a doubt as the evidence piles up against their idol and his feet of clay, and still, his approval numbers stay in the mid 40s. These days, the nation is just too damn tired and jumpy to even raise much of a fuss when Trump sets fire to another couple of million dollars on a  weekend getaway, or increases the debt ceiling by another trillion dollars or so.

Most of us following the Trump debacle had just assumed that the Mueller Report would be wrapped up, by now, and that Trump’s crimes would be exposed, and another can of presidents opened in time for dinner.

But nope … apparently there’s still a lot more rabbit hole to fall down.

There is hope, though. This week has turned out to be one of the wildest chapters in the book of Donald’s really terrible, horrible, no good, weeks. As the current White House resident met for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, desperately trying to shake off some of the stink of that fake ‘national emergency’ he’d declared just before taking a long vacation weekend, former personal lawyer and broken nosed ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen testified publicly about the Trump Foundation’s many quasi legal and often very illegal business workarounds while calling Trump a “a racist,” “a con man,” and “a cheat” before Congress, right as the New York Times released a new report detailing how Jared Kushner‘s security clearance had come about .. and it wasn’t nearly as secure as either the Donald or the daughter of POTUS had promised. Nope .. not at all.

Oh yes, a very bad week indeed.

Kim Jung Un got Trump to buy him dinner, give him a place on the world stage, enable Kim’s propaganda, choose Russia/North Korea‘s words over America’s own intel, excuse horrific and ongoing human rights violations, and walk away from taking the blame for Otto Warmbier’s brutal beating death, in a country where nothing is done without Kim’s explicit permission.

In exchange, the North Korean dictator produced a “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. in 2017,.” where the tiny tyrant accused the Trump Administration of being a billionaires’ club, that harbors a “policy of racism” while exacerbating social inequalities and denying freedom of the press and health coverage to citizens.”

trump kim big envelopeOh me oh my and ouchy! Something tells me that the days of sweet, sweet love letters in giant envelopes arriving at the White House from his loving Kim are far behind us now …

I also suspect that a lot of that ‘locker room talk’ in the 2 hour 20 minute CPAC rally rant had much to do with the POTUS feeling increasingly cornered. It’s not surprising the mask would begin to fall off, and a little bit of the crude ‘pussy grabber‘ re-emerge. Thankfully, this time, only an American flag was molested.

Strange days indeed, mama. Or, as Daniel Dale tweeted, “Folks, these are the rantings of a sundowning old man whose brains are leaking out of his ears live on stage.

Can someone please point me the way back to ‘Normal’?

 

Cabin Fever Smells Like Cold Turkey


A few weeks ago we had some snow that didn’t really stick. A few days later I saw a young father pushing his kid in a baby carriage. “Are the sidewalks clear?” I asked and he said … “yes .. FINALLY!”

In January.

He was a very young man.

toronto winter streetcarAnd then of course, along came February and THERE you are, you stinky Canadian winter, with your cold and your snow, and your ice hiding under the snow, and that wind chill. There you are, with the dark days and the early nights, and the winds that howl down alleys. I see you, there, with your mittens glossy from rubbing the snot from your runny nose. There you are, with the old peoples’ fear that one false step might be the one that breaks their hip. There you are with the isolation, and the inconvenience and the broken promises to get together.

The cats and I have Cabin Fever. We’ve had too much winter and not enough sun. We are all cranky, we are sniping at each other, and we are all a little depressed and taking it out on everyone else.

Every year I swear that I’ll go south, oh yes I will, and when I get there, there will be sand between my toes, and sea shells stinking up the balcony, and I’ll be warm and I will float in turquoise waters. Instead, I once again add ‘get a new passport’ to the endless ‘to do’ list, and pretend I’m not jealous when my friends post pictures of their adventures in sunnier climes.

And yet, this is also the time of year when Canadians can indulge in cuddles, all curled up under the covers or on top of the mound of blankets, as we watch crappy television for hours. Too much to do in summer. Winter is for snuggles.

These are the days when it is easy to embrace your inner caveperson, and feel that our lives and our world are stuck in a dark spiral, and that the warmth and light of summer will never return, thereby necessitating the sacrifice of some poor creature whose steaming entrails might appease the sungods.

But we are not cavepeople; we have Netflix.

toronto winter view from IslandI like to pretend that I will use those indoor winter months to organize my life, sort out the detritus of my life, do my taxes, and write something so incredibly precise and on the money that its wisdom and sense will reverberate through the ages ….

.. but that never happens. I’m more inclined to stare fixedly at a wall lined with items that need to be sorted, filed, categorized, discarded or at least moved to another room, and say .. ‘blue.. that wall would look so much nicer in blue …

This year I’ve made a special effort to take breaks from media of any kind. Our civilization seems to be rapidly unwinding, and as the end draws near, it’s best to take frequent respites from reports from the Front. So I’ll often hide away for a day or more, just to give my overtaxed brain and heart a rest. That, and a steady supply of edibles seems to help.

There is an unending stream of political, psychological, and philosophical nonsense constantly coming down the pike. We can debate endlessly, but sometimes in winter, you’ve just got to slow it all down and let the Muppets decide the subject of your column.

Cabin Fever is a real thing. I can’t even imagine how difficult life must have been for people back in the days before electricity, ski resorts, and hot chocolate. I’m gonna guess a lot of winters didn’t turn out so great for some of those little houses on the prairies.

Cabin fever themes have featured in Charlie Chaplin‘s 1925 film, The Gold Rush, Stefan Zweig‘s 1948 novella, The Royal Game, Stephen King‘s horror novel and film, The Shining,’ and a Simpsons‘ episode called “Mountain of Madness.”

In 1984, The Journal of Social Psychology published a study called “The Meaning of Cabin Fever,” based on interviews carried out with a sample of 35 Minnesota men and women, ages 17 to 84.
cabin fever yay snowThe researchers wanted to know how Minnesotans, prone to being forcibly confined to their homes by bad weather for days at a time, survived with at least some salvation of sanity. While four of the respondents thought that ‘cabin fever’ might actually be a mania having to do with wanting to buy a forest getaway, most of the people surveyed were very clear that cabin fever was a condition they had experienced, created by confinement, bad weather, and a lack of stimulation.

Being physically unable to get away from the house and the people inside it made most people prone to depression, boredom, dissatisfaction, irritability, and moodiness.

Having to deal with a bunch of bored children also made the wintertime even more difficult for many respondents. On a ‘snow day,’ parents juggling the needs of the children often found it even more difficult to deal with their own feelings of isolation.

There are coping mechanisms that can help with the winter blues, including activities that can be done inside or close to the home. Some suggestions included resetting your expectations of yourself and others, by tossing out the alarm clock, playing quieter music, or making slow-cooked food. Dig out those board games or playing cards. This too shall pass.

Now, if you happen to live in Toronto, we’ve actually got some stimulation in the form of a bar that is – for reals! – called Cabin Fever. It’s at 1669 Bloor West, near Keele.

cabin fever bloor westSounds like a good hang. One of the reviewers who opined on yelp said, ” what’s not to love about quality vinyl, pinball machines, and tall boy beers for seven bucks, all packed into a little hole-in-the-wall spot??”

I’ve never been to the place, but it’s open today from four p.m. until two a.m. Locals swear by the ‘pinball, beer and music’ mantra. Might be worth a look see.

I’m just glad that February is almost gone, because my stash of chocolate, fudge, and almonds is at a very low ebb. Thankfully my coffee supply is holding up; I’m always grateful for small mercies.

There’s a pothole in front of my house large enough to swallow a large dog or a small car, and the bird feeder is tilting at a jaunty angle. I’ve had enough of winter, thanks. You can bring on the spring any day now … any day now ….

 

 

2019’s First Blizzard of a Blog Blows In


by Roxanne Tellier

Well, halloooooooo there 2019! Whatchoo got for me, honey?

lucy eating chocolateDespite one of my sorta kinda new year-y resolutions being that I would earnestly and consistently blog (at least a teensy one) on my own website every single day, in truth, I have to confess that, so far, I’ve done pretty much diddley in the first, innocent weeks of this year except eat massive amounts of fudge and chocolate.

But now that the sugar high is starting to fade, it’s back to … do we call this ‘work’?

Cuz, come on guys, “It’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world
Except for Lola, ” isn’t it? I remember when I used to be able to cogitate, ruminate, and generally take my own damn time trying to put into words the craziness that roils around us most days. But not any more. Now I have to compulsively refresh my social media pages while simultaneously watching CNN and MSNBC and I STILL can’t always keep up with the 24/7 news cyclone that is the insane reality of living in the last dregs of the 20 teen years.

2019 is a lot like 1999, when we thought the computers would all crash, planes would fall out of the sky, and the world would come tumbling down around us, except not as much fun.

Anyway. This week I juggled a ‘booster’ week at CAMH. (still trying to keep the senility at bay) as events, minor and major, continued to explode around me.

In Texas, a woman, fed up with the president’s antics, posted online that she hoped someone would shoot Trump between the eyes. Thinking that she lived in a First World country where free speech was her right, she was surprised when a pair of plainclothes Secret Service agents showed up at her door in an attempt to intimidate her, (because that is what you do in a world where the president is a thin skinned bully who can dish it out but not take it, even from some angry lady in a bathrobe in an apartment in Texas.) Hilarity did not ensue ….

In the online world, the buzz this week was all about the Buzzfeed 10 Year Challenge, where you were asked to put up photos showing what you looked like ten years ago, and now.

marie antoinette 10 year challengeOne particularly paranoid group took their cue from a prominent tech writer, who insinuated that the underlying intention of the challenge was to collect large amounts of data in order to clarify the effects of aging on human faces, and thus update the AI facial recognition systems that are coming into play in numerous fields, including the justice system.

white house 10 year challengeThe “10 Year Challenge” or “How Hard Did Aging Hit You” or “Glow Up Challenge” meme asked social media users to show off their very first profile photos alongside an image of what they look like today.

Whatevs. We got a couple of goodies out of the game, and no one had to eat a Tide pod.

Speaking of those crazy kids… living in Trump’s America seems to be bringing out the hardcore racism in some, including in this wannabe Brett Kavanaugh in the making, a student from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who thought he’d harass Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder and Vietnam Vet, at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

As one commenter noted, “It’s racism; it’s blatant racism. The point was cruelty. The point was contempt. The point was hate.”

maga hat teen smirking native elder vetKeep smirking, kid – once you’ve been outed and shamed, you’re gonna love being a social media meme. I’m sure they’ll forget about you by the time you graduate university…. do universities still consider ‘character’ an important factor when they choose whom they’ll accept as students? … and if worse comes to worse, there’ll always be a place for you in Trump’s Supreme Court.

Considering that this week was also the week that millions of male snowflakes lost their minds over the new Gillette commercial, it’s interesting to wonder just what was going through the mind of that young Catholic school boy as he attempted to stare down an elder; did he consider himself a ‘good’ guy, who was already ‘the best men can be‘?

One of my male cousins took extreme offence to this advertisement, and sent a frenetic, rather hyperbolic, message around our family group email thread that, I am embarrassed to say, elicited a fiery response from me in return. The back and forth got extremely heated. In the end, I apologized for losing my temper and for using all the swears – and my cousin decided that he no longer had a family worth talking to. (The drama runs high in this family, I’ll admit.).

snowflake gilletteI’m sure that there are people reading this right now who agree with my cousin, and others who agree with my stance. One of the best comments I’ve read on the whole kerfuffle came from an advertising agency in Australia, that noted,

What is being attacked here? Let’s forget f**king ‘continuity marketing’ for one moment and respect one of the most testosterone-fuelled brands in the world actually standing up and making a stand against horrific male behaviour. Good on them. Maybe the best gauge for where to stand is seeing who’s pro and who’s against. As far as I can see, James Woods, who allegedly propositioned underage girls to go to Las Vegas with him hates the ad. As does the far right magazine ‘The New American.’ Oh, and Piers Morgan. Those who like it include the daughter of Martin Luther King who wrote “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity.” I think I know who I’d rather stand alongside..”

But let’s not dwell on that right now. Instead, let’s feast our eyes, for just a moment, on the bug eyed Rudy Giuliani, who has apparently decided to abandon all hope of actual presidential innocence, and pretty much threw most of Trump’s band of merry men under the bus, one by one. This week Rudy told the world that OF COURSE there had been Russian collusion during the 2016 election. It just hadn’t been done by Trump himself.

Then for about a dozen hours, the news channels rang with the Buzzfeed story that they had absolute proof positive that Trump had told his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Russian property deal. And that, kats and kiddles, would have indeed been that, had it been provable, since there would have been no other alternative than to impeach and possibly indict the Mango for suborning official testimony.

Oh lawdy lawdy! it sure did look like we had Trump by the short and curlies! It was a real John Oliver moment!

But in a surprising move that actually broke the silence of Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump administration and the Russian government, a statement was released denying the incident.

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.” Peter Carr, Mueller spokesperson.

And just like that, we all had to let go of a dream.

On Saturday (was that really only yesterday?) the Orange Resident took to the airwaves again for one of his rally speeches. This time, his very obviously Stephen Miller written speech once again hammered away at all the nasty immigrants he’s so afraid of, the ones he just never tires of telling us are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

(He really needs to get a new, less paranoid, writer .. this one’s already shown off all he’s got in his trick bag.)

Anyway, if I may be so bold .. yesterday’s screed was the WORST deal making I’d ever seen in my life .. and I’ve seen a lot of shitty deals.

Rather than ‘dealing,’ his proposal was to add another $1605 million to his ask, as well as adding on the cost of additional border agents, law enforcement officials and new immigration judges ON TOP OF the $5.7 billion for a border wall.

In exchange, he’d give back the protections he himself broke by executive fiat last year for the DACA kids and the TPS survivors.

trump daca and tpsAt no point did he offer one word or sympathy or empathy to the 800,000 government workers (and their families) who have not been paid in nearly a month.

In my opinion, donald j trump is the most blatant terrorist America’s ever had to deal with. The 911 terrorists threatened to ruin America by destroying what she held dear, but with every day in Trump’s America, the basic freedoms and rights she already had are being chipped away. While his ranting and raving are keeping her citizens frozen with tales of imaginary rapists, murderers and drug dealers, and everyone is looking over their shoulders for these criminals he’s invoked, he and his gang of reverse Robin Hoods are stealing from the poor to aid the rich. Like all of those who excel in putting the squeeze on others to get what they want, his speciality is in finding out what we care about, and threatening to break it, or outright breaking it, just to watch us cry.

In any other time, or in any other country, his actions and treatment of refugees fleeing real terror in their home countries would have brought world condemnation, and possibly a declaration of war. But instead, there is nothing but silence as his border patrol agents oversee the deaths of children and over 2000 adults in the last two years. Our basic empathy and disgust for this abuse of power is used against us; we are mocked for caring about children, the elderly, the ill, the veterans, because the man setting the standards for these harsh and punishing institutions is unable to care about anyone or anything except his own personal aggrandizement.

In his all encompassing narcissism, he has overwhelmed the media and ensured that no one in America could get through a single day of the past two years without being conscious of his extravagances, whims, and demands.

This year, he even stole Christmas and New Year from his citizens, refusing to allow anyone to simply quietly enjoy the holidays. Unable to bear not being the object of continual attention, he tweeted his bile nonstop, while he sulked and whined about being left ‘all alone in the White House,’ unattended by the workers he himself refused to pay.

In trump’s gerbil wheel of a mind, and in what passes for a mind in Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh … these are the actions of a ‘strong man.‘ They really believe that the future belongs to the dictators, the fascists, those that force their will on the people. What they are advocating is the antithesis of democracy, and a lack of understanding that the making of these demands are the actions of a spoiled child, not a man … a child with the perceived power of a dictator … or a terrorist.

While they may think that his not backing down on his demands for a wall that is nothing but a ridiculous, extravagant, monument to a bloated autocrat is a ‘strong’ and macho posture, the majority of Americans know that the standard for a strong leader was set years ago when most Western countries decided, and agreed, that they could not, would not, and must not, negotiate with terrorists.

us does not negotiate with terrorists“The policy of non-negotiation is meant to remove the incentive for taking hostages. For as long as this policy is applied on a no-exceptions basis, terrorists can anticipate that there will be no reward for trading hostages” (wiki)

 

Nancy Pelosi has responded quite clearly and quite rightly, with a “that’s a big NO, big guy,‘ because what he’s asking for is nothing but a bunch of previously rejected and unacceptable initiatives. And no one believes that he is negotiating in good faith; he’s pulled too many rugs out from under too many feet to be trusted any more.

trump can have his wallTune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of America’s “As the World Turns.”
…………………………

Here’s a palate cleanser for you – someone’s getting the band back together!
And THAT is a band I’d pay to see! …

stephen king ridley pearson greg iles dave barry band shot

(Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, Dave Barry aka The Rock Bottom Remainders)

As for me ….

i came i saw i forgot what i was doing

 

My City Was Gone


“Living just enough, just enough, for the city.”

The Big Cities of the past weren’t for everyone. In the hardscrabble days when I was growing up in Montreal or in Toronto, a city rat could always make ends meet, somehow, some way. There was always that neighbourhood where you could find a deal, that part of town where, while it might not be pretty, but, be it ever so humble, you could find a place to crash if you were short of dough. Or a place to score if you wanted to get high. You might not have a Rolex, but you could find a knockoff for a couple of bucks. k market 1976

When you’re really hungry, a bag of smelts tastes like caviar. And back then, the smaller, inner city groceries, run mostly by the children of immigrants, could always be counted on as somewhere to find something cheap and cheerful to feed the belly of the hungry.

 

 

But getting older often means learning the hard way that the city you once knew is gone forever, for good or for ill. Cities change, landmarks disappear, and the people’s needs change. Progress seeks to whitewash the reality of the poverty and the needy that always lurk in a big city’s depths. Your need to find a little corner of the metropolis to call your own won’t necessarily be fulfilled when you most need it, even if you’re willing to bend to nearly breaking point, just to stay where you’ve lived most of your life.

Life in the big city was never gonna be easy for everybody, but for those of us who came here chasing a dream, there was a time when it was easier to make it work. These days, the city rats have to give way to the up and coming high tech mice, who have the wherewithal to pay the big rents, the big mortgages, and who have enough of the ready to enjoy the best of the city that wants to be world class.

for sale signsWhen we sold our home in 2016, we didn’t worry about where we’d land up next. Surely we’d come up roses on a nice, new place to rent, someplace where we could keep our ‘stuff’ and exist comfortably for the foreseeable future.

But our search was far more difficult that we’d thought, and we didn’t find a cubby hole to curl up in straight away – there were a lot of twists and turns on the journey. And once here, the drawbacks of this particular rental surfaced, meaning that this isn’t where we’ll be staying long-term either.

But where we were lucky was in having a good credit rating, reasonably good health, and a couple of bucks in the bank. Not that any of that guarantees you’ll find a decent living space, but when you put them all together, it will help make the search just a little less frustrating.

There are several reasons why living in the bigger cities of North America has become harder for the lower to middle class. We’ve lived through decades of foolish governments who hung on to power by failing to increase taxes enough to keep the city running. Our infrastructure has been strained to it’s limits without the injections of cash needed to keep the trains going, or the hospitals able to handle an aging society.

Those same governments, as a rule, also tended to side with commercial leasing entities over renters, allowing businesses to take huge tax write offs on over priced properties that could stand vacant for months and even years, until a lessee with big dollars took occupation.

Real estate prices have soared in the last decade, until even the tiniest, most rundown, residential property in the city starts at a million dollars, and goes up into the stratosphere from there. Real estate agents are becoming the nouveau riche. Who can afford to buy those properties?

And yet the ‘for sale’ signs go up, and in days, come down, with the replacement sign reading, ‘sold over asking.’ How many of these buyers are house poor, I wonder? And how will they pay the overblown mortgage should one half of a couple lose their jobs or become ill?

straight outta scarboroughGentrification has been excising the more interesting parts of the city for at least the last thirty years. Within another three to five years, Yonge Street south of Bloor will be as nondescript as a Scarborough mall, packed with chain stores, fast food franchises, Starbucks, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on every corner.

If I wanted Scarborough drab .. I’d go to Scarborough. “Cleaning up” Yonge street really means erasing our sense of history and place, and of sanding down the grit of People City, leaving behind the sort of bland, generic playground that is fit only for the children of the very wealthy.

dying from exposureI know that this is no longer the city that I came to conquer back in 1976; there are new generations coming up behind me, young and hungry, and eager to prove themselves in their fields.

But how are they to survive, when those with the ability to raise them up, choose instead to shackle these young spirits with internships and exposure? Where exactly are they to find the bootstraps these strugglers are supposed to pull up?

And most importantly… where are these young tyros supposed to live? And how are they to eat? When living is reduced to just surviving, there’s little time or will to create.

Once upon a time, those who yearned to enjoy and participate in Canada’s culture flocked to Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver, and took their chances, clawing their way to success, or falling by the wayside. But international big money has taken that option out of the equation.

If you didn’t buy real estate twenty years ago, you’re going to have to be in rarefied company to be able to afford to buy today. Even your ability to rent in a ‘better area’ of the metropolises is an iffy proposition.

Globalization, gentrification … we’re moving from the end of the industrial age into the fullness of the digital, high tech world. And our cities reflect that change, just as at one point they reflected the scions who traveled in horse and buggy.

The cities have begun to depend upon video, cellular communications, artificial intelligence, and eventually, a robotics industry that will force countries to accept a basic income that will keep the lower and middle class in just enough financial stability to stay alive … though that life may not be what many would have considered livable even a decade or two ago. The digital elite will own the residences; the rest of us will vie for the privilege of renting.

tent cities 2018And those who fall between the cracks will live in the tent cities that are now springing up to house the homeless.

The cities, as we knew them, are changing. Some cities, like San Francisco and New York, are already gone. and it could be argued that Vancouver is next, with Toronto not far behind.

As much as we may yearn to keep this from happening, globalization is inevitable, and as unstoppable as a tidal wave.

And, for many, that wave is washing away the possibility of aging in place in the Big City.