Wednesday, January 31, 2024

New York City budgeting on display


New York City mayor Eric Adams displays utter mathematical innumeracy.

Mayor Eric Adams expects the city will spend roughly $10.6 billion to care for migrants over the three-year period ending in June 2025. The city spends an average of $352 per night to care for each migrant family, city budget officials said.

I blinked when I read that, did a double-take, and read it again.

Friends, $352 per night amounts to an annual sum of $128,480.  Let me put that in words:

One hundred and twenty-eight thousand, four hundred and eighty dollars.

That's what New York City is spending per migrant family - just one of them - every year.

How many of us - or, rather, our households/families - earn $128,480 every year?  I suspect not very many of us . . .  If we earned that much, I reckon we'd be able to pay for housing, furniture, clothing, food, transport, and anything else we needed, even budgeting carefully in an expensive place like New York City.

How about New York City abandons the entire effort to shelter migrants, fires every city or state employee involved in it, cancels all the contracts with hotels and others, and simply hands over to each migrant household a cash amount of one hundred thousand dollars per year, to live there and pay their own way?  The migrants would doubtless be very happy, and the city would save millions!  The ratepayers would object, but they're already being fiscally raped to a greater extent than that by the city's current policies.  It's just that most of them haven't noticed it among all the other demands on their money.

(To those who object that such a cash hand-out would merely attract a lot more unwanted migrants to flock to New York City:  those of us living elsewhere think of that as a feature, not a bug!)

Progressive-left budgeting at work.  Sheesh!


If you find yourself getting deeper and deeper in a hole, dig harder!


That appears to be the motto of many so-called "blue" (i.e left-wing/progressive) states in America.  Two recent headlines demonstrate it.

Blue States Just Can’t Stop Taxing

The latest Census Bureau data on population changes in America should have been a wake-up call to lawmakers in blue states and cities. The Census data provide even further evidence that “soak the rich” tax policies have incited a blue-state meltdown.

California, New York and Illinois all lost the most population last year. These states have nearly lost a combined 5 million people over the last decade. California and New York could both lose another three congressional seats by the end of the decade, and Illinois another two.

Did I mention that these are the three states with the highest taxes?

Is this just a coincidence?

Democratic governors evidently think so. This year, seven blue states are pursuing even higher tax rates on the top 1% of earners, despite the evidence that these policies are detrimental to their citizens.

. . .

Meanwhile, Jonathan Williams, the chief economist at the American Legislative Exchange Council — an association of more than 2,000 conservative state legislators — reports that eight red states are cutting income taxes including Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia. Oklahoma is set to cut rates this year to as low as 2%. Several of these states now have flat taxes, not multiple tier “progressive” rates. Every state on this list is a red state, except Connecticut.

What does all this mean? The blue-state deep thinkers can’t see that their “progressive” tax systems are bleeding their states dry. Or they don’t care.

Law banning plastic bags in blue state backfires as plastic consumption skyrockets

New Jersey’s single-use plastic bag ban has proved unsuccessful in curbing plastic consumption, with a new study showing that plastic use has tripled.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) signed a bill that set the bag ban into motion in May 2022 in an effort to address plastic pollution, and he said it “will help mitigate climate change.” The ban, which was the strictest of its kind at the time, restricted retail and grocery stores from providing customers with single-use plastic bags and prohibited grocery stores larger than 2,500 square feet from giving customers single-use paper bags ... The law also banned polystyrene foam food takeout containers and single-use plastic straws unless a customer requests one. 

Shoppers resorted to reusable bags ... However, this surge in reusable bags has created its own sort of environmental problem ... A new study by Freedonia Group on Jan. 9 shows that the plastic bag ban the governor touted as “the strongest bill of its kind in the U.S.” has produced the opposite effect. New Jersey residents have used three times the amount of plastic, consuming 53 million pounds of plastic before the law and 151 million pounds after, according to numbers reported by Fox News. 

“Most of these alternative bags are made with nonwoven polypropylene, which is not widely recycled in the United States and does not typically contain any post-consumer recycled materials. This shift in material also resulted in a notable environmental impact, with the increased consumption of polypropylene bags contributing to a 500% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to nonwoven polypropylene bag production in 2015,” the study reported. 

New Jersey is not the only state to implement plastic bag bans to help the environment. Twelve others, including Vermont, Oregon, California, and Colorado, have single-use plastic bag restrictions.

Now, if only we could stop migrants from those states to more sensible ones from taking with them the attitudes that ruined their states of origin in the first place . . .  Why do so many of them arrive in their new homes, loudly celebrating leaving behind all those restrictive, counterproductive, overbearing state policies, and then vote for people who want to introduce the same problems to their new states?

This gets tiring, to say the very least . . .  It's no wonder some of the road signs show evidence of that.


This is why I refuse to use Facebook


There are fewer and fewer of us who remember when privacy was something important, and tried to allow other people their space while insisting on our own.  Sadly, the intrusion of technology into every part of our lives has all but destroyed the concept of personal privacy.  Certainly, anything and everything one says over any electronic medium must be assumed to be unsafe/not secure.

Facebook is a perfect example of a company that doesn't give a damn about your privacy.

Using a panel of 709 volunteers who shared archives of their Facebook data, Consumer Reports found that a total of 186,892 companies sent data about them to the social network. On average, each participant in the study had their data sent to Facebook by 2,230 companies. That number varied significantly, with some panelists’ data listing over 7,000 companies providing their data.  The Markup helped Consumer Reports recruit participants for the study. Participants downloaded an archive of the previous three years of their data from their Facebook settings, then provided it to Consumer Reports.

By collecting data this way, the study was able to examine a form of tracking that is normally hidden: so-called server-to-server tracking, in which personal data goes from a company’s servers to Meta’s servers. Another form of tracking, in which Meta tracking pixels are placed on company websites, is visible to users’ browsers. 

. . .

Despite its limitations, the study offers a rare look, using data directly from Meta, on how personal information is collected and aggregated online.

Meta spokesperson Emil Vazquez defended the company’s practices. “We offer a number of transparency tools to help people understand the information that businesses choose to share with us, and manage how it’s used,” Vazquez wrote in an emailed statement to The Markup.

While Meta does provide transparency tools like the one that enabled the study, Consumer Reports identified problems with them, including that the identity of many data providers is unclear from the names disclosed to users and that companies that provide services to advertisers are often allowed to ignore opt-out requests.

One company appeared in 96 percent of participants’ data: LiveRamp, a data broker based in San Francisco. But the companies sharing your online activity to Facebook aren’t just little-known data brokers. Retailers like Home Depot, Macy’s, and Walmart, all were in the top 100 most frequently seen companies in the study. Credit reporting and consumer data companies such as Experian and TransUnion’s Neustar also made the list, as did Amazon, Etsy, and PayPal.

. . .

“This type of tracking which occurs entirely outside of the user’s view is just so far outside of what people expect when they use the internet,” Caitriona Fitzgerald, deputy director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told The Markup in an interview. Fitzgerald said that while users are likely aware that Meta knows what they are doing while they are on Facebook and Instagram, “they don’t expect Meta to know what stores they walk into or what news articles they’re reading or every site they visit online.”

There's more at the link.

I've never used Facebook, because I've been aware for a long time of its electronic intrusiveness and deliberate policy of nullifying efforts at personal privacy.  Reading that report merely confirms that only those who literally don't care about keeping anything private should be using it.

If our spouses tried to spy on us the way Facebook and its corporate customers do, it would probably be grounds for divorce:  yet we ignore or even invite such intrusion every time we use such services.  What's wrong with us, and with our society, that we've been conditioned to not just allow, but welcome that? - because if we continue to use Facebook and similar "social media" services after learning about such anti-privacy policies, that's exactly what we're doing.


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

A blast (and a giggle or two) from my past


Back in 1988, agreement was reached between the parties to the Tripartite Accord to grant independence to Namibia (previously administered by South Africa under the name South West Africa, under a disputed League of Nations mandate).  The United Nations Transition Assistance Group, or UNTAG, was dispatched to Namibia in 1989 to oversee and assist with the transition process.  It had a very rocky start, with hostilities flaring up as it was supposed to take over, but once they were suppressed, it began work.

UNTAG rapidly became a figure of fun to many South Africans and Namibians, because it wasn't the world's most militarily efficient force (anything but, in fact!), and many of its units and personnel were clearly not selected from elite fighting formations.  Despite its military issues and problems, UNTAG did a reasonably good job at overseeing elections, and Namibia became independent in 1990.  However, the military problems were fodder for cartoonists and comedians for many months.

Among them was Leon Schuster, a well-known South African filmmaker and comedian (and the diametric opposite of politically correct).  He rapidly produced a movie titled "Oh Schucks, Here Comes UNTAG", situated in the fictitious nation of "Nambabwe", which lampooned the UNTAG forces and prompted much sarcastic amusement among South African audiences.  It's not a great film (at best B-movie standard), and the jokes rely on slapstick rather than subtlety, but I nevertheless had a few good laughs when I saw it way back then.

It's been out of circulation for years, but to my pleasure, I discovered that someone recently uploaded it to YouTube.  If you want a military-oriented belly-laugh with an African flavor, you could do worse.

Yes, I giggled again at some of the scenes, particularly those dealing with ostriches and rhinoceros horn. Africans will understand.


(P.S.:  Don't believe the Wikipedia figures for the flare-up in hostilities as UNTAG took over, which were suppressed by swift and very vigorous South African military reaction.  Casualties numbered in the mid-thousands, not low hundreds, and almost all of them were SWAPO.)

"The greatest miscarriage of justice in modern American history"


That's what Raheem Kassam calls the verdict in the Trump-Carrol case.  

The awarding of nearly $90 million to the second-rate advice columnist E. Jean Carroll will doubtless be remembered for generations as the greatest miscarriage of justice in contemporary American history. Jean Carroll’s case was not just ludicrous on the face of it, but between the judge, the “experts” who testified, and the mechanisms by which the case even came to be, it’s impossible for any ordinary person in the West to see this as anything more than the continuation of a series of hoaxes perpetrated on former President Donald J. Trump with the desire to keep him from re-entering the Oval Office in January 2025.

. . .

Show trials like this are not commonplace in the Western world. But it happened in New York in 2024. And everyone should be wary. If someone can accuse Trump, without evidence, of a crime committed 30 years ago. If the judge demands Trump may not defend himself. If they can get away with a wildly arbitrary number concocted by a lawyer trying to repair her own reputation, and an overtly partisan “expert” who admits no real-world experience in her supposed field of expertise – all against one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world. Well, then, think about what they can do to you.

There's more at the link, including a detailed examination of every point that makes the Carroll verdict a very dubious proposition.  If you haven't followed the trial, you really need to read Kassam's summation.  It shows very clearly how "lawfare" is being used against President Trump at every turn, to try to frustrate his efforts to be re-elected.

I'm not a particular fan of President Trump, and never have been.  Nevertheless, I have to acknowledge that he's not just fighting for public opinion, but against the entire legal and administrative system of this country, both of which appear to have been hijacked by his opponents to block him from ever again holding office.

Will they succeed?  Your guess is as good as mine . . . but President Trump is putting up the best fight he can.  That, in itself, is praiseworthy, given that he's fighting forces greater than any that have opposed any politician in our history.

Finally, think about Mr. Kassam's closing line:  "Think about what they can do to you."  I suggest the trials concerning the alleged "insurrection" on January 6th, 2020, tell their own story about that.  Basically, the message being sent through them, as through the Trump-Carroll case, is that "If you oppose us, we will crush you."  Historically, Americans have had a blunt answer to that message.  I wonder if we still have that same determination and independence of spirit today?


Who is Joe Biden working for?


That's the very good question asked by Mr. B.

So Biden says he is “Willing to shut down the border” right now…..If the border deal passes (With Ukraine funding)

(read that again….the security of this country hinges on him getting taxpayer money for Ukraine)

Why isn’t he willing to shut down the border RIGHT ****ING NOW?

Why is he holding this COUNTRY, the United States, hostage, in order to make sure that Ukraine gets it’s funding…more free money from the United States taxpayer? Why is that more important to him , higher in priority, than the sovereignty of our country’s borders and the economic health of our citizens? (How much are they kicking back to him and his family?)

Who, exactly, is he working for? The people of the Untied States, or the Government of Ukraine?

This is the question that EVERYONE should be asking.

There's more at the link.  Mr. B. goes on to speculate about the immense sums of military aid to Ukraine that are "missing", and wonders whether they're linked to the issue above.

Given the Biden family's history with Burisma, and President Biden's boast about shutting down an Ukrainian investigation into that issue, the answer to Mr. B.'s question might be more than a little revealing, don't you think?


Monday, January 29, 2024

A professor who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty


In this country, we're accustomed to academics moaning and groaning about their "inadequate" salaries, or their teaching workload, or the number of classes they have to present, or whatever.  Since most of them aren't worth the cost of their courses, I tend to disregard their kvetching.

However, a professor in Nigeria doesn't moan - he finds a way to set an example, even when his academic income is lacking or not paid at all.  The BBC reports:

Kabir Abu Bilal is not your regular Nigerian university professor - he has a second job working as a welder in the northern city of Zaria.

Welding is widely seen as a menial job across Nigeria and he has shocked many - especially his colleagues - by opening up his own welding workshop.

"I am not ashamed that I work as a welder despite being a professor," he tells the BBC. "I make more money from welding."

The 50-year-old teaches and supervises research students at the faculty of engineering at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria's largest and one of its most prestigious universities.

He has worked there for 18 years and published several books on physics and electrical engineering.

. . .

Not only has the workshop satisfied his need to get his hands dirty, but it has really helped him on the financial front.

Academics in Nigeria have long struggled on modest salaries, most earning between 350,000 naira ($390; £305) and 500,000 ($555; £435) a month - and there are often long battles with the government to get a pay increase.

Prof Abu Bilal says his welding job has allowed him to be more self-sufficient and he has even been able to buy a more reliable car - a Mercedes.

In leaner times, he has even helped those who frowned on his joint career.

"When university lecturers went on strike for eight months in 2022 and we weren't paid, I always had money because of this job and a few colleagues came to me for help."

Prof Abu Bilal hopes to inspire other people to take on jobs like the one he does.

He has 10 apprentices - aged between 12 and 20 - at the workshop where he is teaching them the skills of the trade.

Those who are not at school during the day take care of the workshop when he is away at university.

The apprenticeship tends to take about a year - and then when they have the skills they can go off and set up their own businesses.

There's more at the link.

Well done, Professor!  I wish there were more like him at American universities.  I'd be much more likely, as a student, to have respect for a "let's-get-it-done" go-ahead teacher like him than I would most of the liberal, left-wing, progressive, knee-jerk-reactor types who pass for professors here.  I bet he turns out above-average graduates, and above-average welding apprentices, too.

He sets an example American educators would do well to follow.


Ammo warning - updated


My favorite ammo vendor, SGAmmo of Oklahoma, has just published their latest newsletter.  They warn:

News from Shotshow 2024: I just got home from 4 days in Las Vegas at the shotshow, where I met with the people from the factories we work with, factory sales people, factory directors and owners, importers, etc. The big point of discussion seemed to be shortness in supply for nitrocellulose, which is the raw material used to make gunpowder and other propellants and explosives. Based on these conversations, the issue seems to be based on 2 factors, decreased availability in the supply chain and increased demand for the manufacturing of military ordnance.

Getting into the details and a little more, a huge percentage of the nitrocellulose used to make gunpowder historically came from China and Russia, however according to my conversations with industry partners, the Chinese manufacturers who historically were the biggest suppliers at over 30% of the market share are no longer willing to ship raw nitrocellulose to the USA or NATO member countries in attempt to reduce the USA & NATO's ability to supply Ukrainian forces with artillery shells, and of course Russia who historically was the 2nd biggest supplier is out of the supply chain as well. This decrease in supply in raw material has gunpowder manufacturers in the USA raising prices dramatically and cutting off many of the smaller ammo manufacturers.

The 2nd part of this issue is the demand for military ordnance, like 155mm artillery shells that use huge quantities gunpowder propellants, and the gunpowder manufacturers switching production to this type of gunpowder with what supply of nitrocellulose they do get. The first reason is that they always put the US government's needs before those of the commercial market, and the second reason is that it is simply much more profitable to manufacturer military ordnance than it is small caliber ammunition, so they get a much more profitable price manufacturing powder for artillery shells.

In conclusion, while most of  the factories seem to have gunpowder stockpiled today, this issue is expected to catch up to them no later than the summer of 2024 and possibly within a few months, and when it does it will mean the factories will be capable of producing much less small caliber ammunition to sell to the US commercial market. If demand for ammo is low to moderate, you may not see a big change, but if demand were to go way up as it does periodically, the factories will not be able to ramp up capacity to fill that demand. In my opinion, a lot could go wrong in the commercial ammo supply chain in 2024 and it would be wise to stock up sooner than later as 2024 price increases have just started to set in on just a handful of select items so far, and availability is still good which has held prices down temporarily.

This makes sense to me.  For example, a single 155mm. artillery round can consume up to 25 pounds of propellant, whereas that same weight of propellant could make many thousands of rounds of rifle or handgun ammunition.  Military demand has been off the charts, thanks to sending tens of thousands of artillery and tank ammunition to Ukraine and Israel, and having to replenish our own depleted stocks (not to mention those of several NATO countries).

It's worth thinking about the availability of ammunition if a shooting war should erupt that involves the USA.  I know that during World War II, civilian ammunition supplies were almost completely curtailed.  Manufacturers simply didn't produce most civilian cartridges and calibers, and everything that was produced went straight to the military.  Civilian hunters and shooters who loaded their own ammunition and cast their own bullets were able to continue, but many others hung up their firearms for the duration - they had no choice.  Back then the internal security situation was a lot more stable than it is these days, so that didn't pose too much of a problem.  Now?  I'd be very, very skittish at the thought that I might not be able to defend my family and home.

(There's also the factor that an anti-gun government might use the opportunity to simply ban all civilian sales of ammo and firearms, and even turn to confiscation to get its hands on the millions of rounds in private hands.  One can't predict that with any certainty, but I'd regard it as not unlikely.)

Friends, if you use firearms in common military calibers (e.g. 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x51mm NATO, 9mm Parabellum, etc.) I'd very strongly suggest that you stockpile enough ammo in those cartridges to see you through a few years of shooting.  I also encourage you to stockpile enough .22LR ammo to use for training purposes (either using conversion kits to fit your existing firearms, or dedicated .22LR weapons), because that'll be a whole lot cheaper (and better for your supplies) than using full-patch ammo.  However many rounds you store for each of your "service" weapons, I think three to four times as many rounds of .22LR would be a useful accompaniment - and that's for each weapon.  YMMV, of course.

Each of us will have to make hard choices as to what we consider essential.  I've made mine.  I can only suggest that you make your own, quickly, and take steps to implement them while ammo supplies are still relatively freely available, at relatively low cost.  That could change almost overnight.  It has, in the past.  Also . . . it's an election year.  Who knows what might come down the pike aimed at gun owners?


Memes that made me laugh 194


Gathered around the Internet over the past week.  There are fewer than usual today, because I've been very busy (and not in the greatest of health), so I haven't had much time to spend wandering the Web looking for them.  I'll try to do better next week.

Click any image for a larger view.

More next week.


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Sunday morning music


A reader wrote to ask, "What weird/wacky/crazy animal songs or tunes have you come across?"  Well, that's tricky, because it depends more on the beholder (or should that be listener?) to make that call - it's a matter of taste.  At any rate, I decided to post three weird animal songs/tunes, and invite you to post your own contributions in Comments (including a YouTube link or something similar, if possible).  Let's drive each other nuts this Sunday!

Of course, one has to begin with the original animal ripoff . . .  How many of you remember the Hampster Dance and its spinoff, the Hampster Dance Song?

Perhaps the most earworm-ish of early animal songs (?) was the Badger Song.

Also dating back to last century is Dana Lyons' song Cows With Guns, which became a worldwide hit and led to a music album and book of the same name.

Over to you, readers.  List your favorite zany animal songs in Comments, with a link to the videos.


Saturday, January 27, 2024

Saturday Snippet: Order, counter-order, disorder


We have a new political crisis in this country to go with all those that have already plagued us.  This time, Texas (supported by 25 other states) is in open conflict with the Biden administration over the influx of illegal aliens into the USA.  Texas regards it (rightly, IMHO) as an invasion that threatens its security as a state.  The Biden administration maintains that Texas has no right to interfere in national affairs.  There have already been court rulings, actions, retaliations, and (I'm sure) a great deal of behind-the-scenes maneuvering.  Where will it end?  Who knows?

The problem is, this may be "the last straw that breaks the camel's back", and precipitates a major constitutional conflict between federal and state's rights . . . or it may not.  Nobody knows.  I'd say it's more likely than not, but I could be wrong.  I also think (and have said before in these pages) that our national debt, and the spendthrift policies in Washington D.C. (by both parties), are likely to precipitate a financial crisis - but that hasn't happened yet.  (I'm pretty sure it will, but when is the question.). The question is, what makes something into such a crisis, a "last straw"?

In his book "Ubiquity:  Why Catastrophes Happen", Mark Buchanan takes a closer look at that conundrum.

The blurb reads:

Critically acclaimed science journalist, Mark Buchanan tells the fascinating story of the discovery that there is a natural structure of instability woven into the fabric of our world, which explains why catastrophes-- both natural and human-- happen.

Scientists have recently discovered a new law of nature and its footprints are virtually everywhere-- in the spread of forest fires, mass extinctions, traffic jams, earthquakes, stock-market fluctuations, the rise and fall of nations, and even trends in fashion, music and art. Wherever we look, the world is modelled on a simple template: like a steep pile of sand, it is poised on the brink of instability, with avalanches-- in events, ideas or whatever-- following a universal pattern of change. This remarkable discovery heralds what Mark Buchanan calls the new science of 'ubiquity', a science whose secret lies in the stuff of the everyday world. Combining literary flair with scientific rigour, this enthralling book documents the coming revolution by telling the story of the researchers' exploration of the law, their ingenious work and unexpected insights.

Buchanan reveals that we are witnessing the emergence of an extraordinarily powerful new field of science that will help us comprehend the bewildering and unruly rhythms that dominate our lives and may even lead to a true science of the dynamics of human culture and history.

It's not a comfortable book to read, because it makes it clear that we can't predict problems, disasters and turmoil with any certainty - we can only predict uncertainty with confidence, meaning that if our plans and predictions for the future are too fixed, too dogmatic, too certain, we're almost bound to be confounded by what actually happens.

Here's how Mr. Buchanan applies the "sandpile analogy" to events in the world around us.

The physics research journals are now stuffed with papers about the workings of simple mathematical games: some meant to explore the basic historical process behind crystal growth, others to mimic that which lies behind the formation of rough surfaces, and so on. There are hundreds, each slightly different in its details, but all sharing a deeply historical nature. These games offer a way to proceed in the face of history and its messy strings of accidents. In effect, they permit scientists to greatly simplify the things they’re studying, whether an economy or an ecosystem, and to focus on the fundamental processes at work without being distracted by myriad confusing details.

And of all these games, one stands out as a kind of archetype of simplicity, and has been central to the discovery of the underlying cause of a vast range of tumultuous events. To understand this “sandpile game,” a focal point for our story, imagine dropping grains of sand one by one onto a table and watching the pile grow. A grain falls accidentally here or there, and then in time the pile grows over it, freezing it in place. Afterward, the pile feels forever more the influence of that grain being just where it is and not elsewhere. In this case, clearly, history matters, since what happens now can never be washed away, but affects the entire course of the future.

“All great deeds and all great thoughts,” Albert Camus once wrote, “have ridiculous beginnings.” And so it was in 1987 when physicists Per Bak, Chao Tang, and Kurt Weisenfeld began playing this sandpile game in an office at Brookhaven National Laboratory, in New York State. As it turns out, this seemingly trivial game lies behind the discovery of the widespread importance of the critical state—the discovery that can help us to make sense of upheavals.

The Sand Men and the Critical State

Theoretical physicists enjoy posing seemingly trivial questions that, after a bit of thinking, turn out not to be so trivial. In this respect the sandpile game turned out to be a real winner. As grains pile up, it seems clear that a broad mountain of sand should edge slowly skyward, and yet things obviously cannot continue in this way. As the pile grows its sides become steeper, and it becomes more likely that the next falling grain will trigger an avalanche. Sand would then slide downhill to some flatter region below, making the mountain smaller, not bigger. As a result, the mountain should alternately grow and shrink, its jagged silhouette forever fluctuating.

Bak, Tang, and Weisenfeld wanted to understand those fluctuations: What is the typical rhythm of the growing and shrinking sandpile? Of course, they didn’t really care about sandpiles. In studying this silly problem, they were really chasing some insights regarding the general workings of nonequilibrium systems. The sandpile seemed like a nice, simple starting point, and with luck, they hoped, they might discover in this setting some patterns of behavior that would apply to a lot more than just sandpiles.

Unfortunately, dropping sand one grain at a time is a delicate and laborious business. So in seeking some answers concerning the rhythm of the pile’s growth, Bak and his colleagues turned to the computer. They instructed it to drop imaginary “grains” onto an imaginary “table,” with simple rules dictating how grains would topple downhill as the pile grew steeper. It was not quite the same as a real sandpile, and yet the computer had one spectacular advantage: a pile would grow in seconds rather than days. It was so easy to play the game that the three physicists soon became glued to their computer screens, obsessed with dropping grains and watching the results. And they began to see some curious things.

The first big surprise came as the answer to a simple question: What is the typical size of an avalanche? How big, that is, should you expect the very next avalanche to be? The researchers ran a huge number of tests, counting the grains in millions of avalanches in thousands of sandpiles, looking for the typical number involved. The result? Well…there was no result, for there simply was no “typical” avalanche. Some involved a single grain; others ten, a hundred, or a thousand. Still others were pile-wide cataclysms involving millions that brought nearly the whole mountain tumbling down. At any time, literally anything, it seemed, might be just about to happen.

Imagine wandering into the street, anticipating how tall the next person might be. If people’s heights worked like these avalanches, then the next person might be less than an inch tall, or over a mile high. You might crush the next person like an insect before seeing him or her. Or imagine that the duration of your trips home from work went this way; you’d be unable to plan your life, since tomorrow evening’s journey might take anything from a few seconds to a few years. This is a rather dramatic kind of unpredictability, to say the least.

To find out why it should show up in their sandpile game, Bak and colleagues next played a trick with their computer. Imagine peering down on the pile from above, and coloring it in according to its steepness. Where it is relatively flat and stable, color it green; where steep and, in avalanche terms, “ready to go,” color it red. What do you see? They found that at the outset the pile looked mostly green, but that, as the pile grew, the green became infiltrated with ever more red. With more grains, the scattering of red danger spots grew until a dense skeleton of instability ran through the pile. Here then was a clue to its peculiar behavior: a grain falling on a red spot can, by dominolike action, cause sliding at other nearby red spots. If the red network was sparse, and all trouble spots were well isolated one from the other, then a single grain could have only limited repercussions. But when the red spots come to riddle the pile, the consequences of the next grain become fiendishly unpredictable. It might trigger only a few tumblings, or it might instead set off a cataclysmic chain reaction involving millions. The sandpile seemed to have configured itself into a hypersensitive and peculiarly unstable condition in which the next falling grain could trigger a response of any size whatsoever.

This may seem like something that only a physicist could find interesting. After all, in other settings, scientists have known about this condition for more than a century; they have referred to it technically as a critical state. But to physicists, it has always been seen as a kind of theoretical freak and sideshow, a devilishly unstable and unusual condition that arises only under the most exceptional circumstances—in liquids, for example, when held at precise temperatures and pressures under extraordinarily well controlled laboratory conditions. In the sandpile game, however, a critical state seemed to arise naturally and inevitably through the mindless sprinkling of grains.

This led Bak, Tang, and Weisenfeld to ponder a provocative possibility: If the critical state arises so easily and inevitably in a simple computer model of a growing sandpile, might something like it also arise elsewhere? Despite what scientists had previously believed, might the critical state in fact be quite common? Could riddling lines of instability of a logically equivalent sort run through the Earth’s crust, for example, through forests and ecosystems, and perhaps even through the somewhat more abstract “fabric” of our economies? Think of those first few crumbling rocks near Kōbe, or that first insignificant dip in prices that triggered the stock market crash of 1987. Might these have been “sand grains” acting at another level? Could the special organization of the critical state explain why the world at large seems so susceptible to unpredictable upheavals?

A decade of research by hundreds of other physicists has explored this question and taken the initial idea much further. There are many subtleties and twists in the story to which we shall come later in this book, but the basic message, roughly speaking, is simple: The peculiar and exceptionally unstable organization of the critical state does indeed seem to be ubiquitous in our world. Researchers in the past few years have found its mathematical fingerprints in the workings of all the upheavals I’ve mentioned so far, as well as in the spreading of epidemics, the flaring of traffic jams, the patterns by which instructions trickle down from managers to workers in an office, and in many other things. At the heart of our story, then, lies the discovery that networks of things of all kinds—atoms, molecules, species, people, and even ideas—have a marked tendency to organize themselves along similar lines. On the basis of this insight, scientists are finally beginning to fathom what lies behind tumultuous events of all sorts, and to see patterns at work where they have never seen them before.

Critical World?

So the ubiquity of the critical state might well be considered the first really solid discovery of complexity theory—or of what I have been calling historical physics. This is a discovery with implications, and not only for physicists and other scientists. If the laws of physics didn’t allow “frozen” accidents, the world would be in equilibrium, and everything would be like the gas in a balloon, resting forever in the same uniform and unchanging condition. But the laws of physics do allow events to have consequences that can become locked in place, and so alter the playing field on which the future unfolds. The laws of physics allow history to exist, and to play a crucial role in the way our world works. The discovery of the ubiquity of the critical state, then, is also the first deep discovery concerning the way that historical processes usually work, which brings us back to the point from which we started this chapter.

In principle, history could unfold far more predictably than it does. It needn’t, in principle, be subject to terrific cataclysms of all sorts. One of our tasks in this book is to examine why the character of human history is as it is, and not otherwise. The answer, I suggest, is to be found in the critical state and in the new nonequilibrium science of games, which aims to study and categorize the kinds of historical processes that are possible. If many historians have searched for gradual trends or cycles as a way of finding meaning and making sense of history, then they were using the wrong tools. These notions arise in equilibrium physics and astronomy. The proper tools are to be found in nonequilibrium physics, which is specifically tuned to understanding things in which history matters.

In the very same year that Bak, Tang, and Weisenfeld invented their game, the historian Paul Kennedy published The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

In that book he laid out the idea that the large-scale historical rhythm of our world is determined by the natural buildup and release of stress in the global network of politics and economics. His view of the dynamics of history leaves little room for the influence of “great individuals,” and is more in keeping with the words of John Kenneth Galbraith quoted at the beginning of this chapter. It sees individuals as products of their time, having limited freedom to respond in the face of powerful forces. Kennedy’s thesis, in essence, is this: The economic power of a nation naturally waxes and wanes. As times change, some nations are left clinging to power that their economic base can no longer support; others find new economic strength, and naturally seek greater influence. The inevitable result? Tension, which grows until something gives way. Usually the stress finds its release through armed conflict, after which the influence of each nation is brought back into rough balance with its true economic strength.

If this sounds at all like the processes at work in the Earth’s crust, where stresses build up slowly to be released in sudden earthquakes, or in the sandpile game, where the slopes grow higher and more unstable until leveled again in some avalanche, it may be no coincidence. We shall see later that wars actually occur with the same statistical pattern as do earthquakes or avalanches in the sandpile game. Kennedy could find strong support for his thesis—as well as a more adequate language in which to describe it—in this theoretical idea. He may have been struggling to express in words, and in a historical context, what the concept of the critical state expresses mathematically.

Whatever lessons historians may be able to draw from all this, the meaning for the individual is more ambiguous. For if the world is organized into a critical state, or something much like it, then even the smallest forces can have tremendous effects. In our social and cultural networks, there can be no isolated act, for our world is designed—not by us, but by the forces of nature—so that even the tiniest of acts will be amplified and registered by the larger world. The individual, then, has power, and yet the nature of that power reflects a kind of irreducible existential predicament. If every individual act may ultimately have great consequences, those consequences are almost entirely unforeseeable. Out there right now on some red square in the field of history a grain may be about to fall. Someone trying to bring warring parties to terms may succeed, or may instead spark a conflagration. Someone trying to stir up conflict may usher in a lengthy term of peace. In our world, beginnings bear little relationship to endings, and Albert Camus was right: “All great deeds and all great thoughts have ridiculous beginnings.”

One of the inevitable themes of our story is that if one wants to learn about the rhythms of history (or, shall we say, its disrhythms), one might just as well become familiar with the process by which, say, earthquakes happen. If the organization of upheaval and hypersensitivity is everywhere, one need not look far to find it.

Analyzing Mr. Buchanan's thesis in relation to economics, John Mauldin observed:

We are adding sand to not just one inevitably collapsing sandpile, but dozens and maybe hundreds of them. They won’t keep growing forever.

Which particular sandpile will fall first? It could be many, but it will likely be debt-oriented. And the fingers of instability tell us that it doesn’t matter which grain of sand is the trigger, just that there will be one. Millions of investors think they can continue acting as if today will just be like yesterday, which will be like tomorrow, and then be able to sell when trouble appears.

They’re partly right. They will be able to sell… but well below the prices they expect.

I write often about the connectedness of so many global markets and how the debt crisis, unfunded pension liabilities, and government promises all over the world seemingly keep mounting, yet markets go up more.

I think the mother of all Minsky moments is building. It will not be an instant sandpile collapse but instead, take years because we have $500 trillion of debt to work through. Remember, that debt just can’t be swept away. It is both money somebody owes and an asset on somebody else’s balance sheet. If you are retired, your pension and healthcare benefits are part of your net worth. They are assets on your balance sheet that you count on to cover future spending. We can’t just take that away without huge consequences to culture and society.

But the fingers of instability, the total credit system, are seemingly growing with more red sand dots every month. All are inextricably linked. One day, another Thailand or Russia or something else (it makes no difference which) will start a cascade.

There's more at the link.

The really frightening thing to me is the interrelatedness of crises.  What if the constitutional crisis between Texas and Washington D.C. precipitates an economic crisis?  The Biden administration seems hell-bent on causing one, with its refusal to sanction new natural gas facilities in Texas due to the latter's recalcitrance on illegal aliens.  Texas has many ways in which it can retaliate, being the USA's primary energy producer and distributor.  It can cause grievous harm to the economies of many states, and to that of the nation as a whole, if it wants to.  Could a political dispute cause an economic meltdown?  You bet your boots it could!

Right now, we're in a very parlous situation indeed.  Keep your eyes and ears open, and your head down, and watch carefully.


Friday, January 26, 2024

Hurried road trip


I have to head down to the metromess (DFW) to collect some bookcases.  I'd made alternate arrangements, but thanks to utterly ridiculous store policies, it turns out that nobody except me can collect the goods ordered over the Internet.  (Why IKEA is so absolutely anal and unhelpful about dealing with online orders, I have no idea.  I can only suspect they prefer you to drive to the store and do things in person.  I won't be ordering online from them again, I can tell you!)

Anyway, that means I won't have time to put up more blog posts this morning.  Please amuse yourselves with the blogs listed in the sidebar.  Thanks!


Dehumidifiers as clothes dryers?


I'm sure we all know dehumidifiers as a means to reduce indoor humidity and produce drier, healthier air for our homes.  However, I'd never thought of them as a way to quickly, efficiently and cheaply dry laundry until I read this BBC report.

Given the high cost of electricity, tumble dryers have become much more expensive to use. Drying a single load of laundry could cost more than £1.50 (approximately US $1.91), according to the makers of energy tracking app Hugo. In comparison, a dehumidifier can help to dry clothes hung up indoors in just a few hours while only costing pennies.

Rachael Peterson, an electronics engineer who lives in Oxfordshire, uses her dehumidifier to dry out clothes hung up in an enclosure under her stairs. She does this overnight, on a cheaper electricity tariff, and says it costs less than 4p (about 5 US cents).

"The clothes are dried down there in a matter of hours," she tells BBC News. "Everything's dried properly."

There's more at the link.

I know a lot of people are battling to pay high electricity bills this winter.  Admittedly, it costs to buy a dehumidifier (prices on Amazon range from $45 up to several hundred dollars), but if one can be found at a reasonable price, the savings in electricity to dry one's laundry might pay for it relatively quickly - and from then on, it's gravy (financially speaking).  There are also the general health and environmental benefits to be considered.  Having just dried out our home after an incident with rather too much water, I'm keeping those firmly in mind!


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Eat your vaccines like a good little boy...


Jon Rappoport warns that's coming.

Farmers, you can get RNA vaccines for your pigs with a snap of the fingers. Normally, it takes years for a new vaccine to clear testing and win approval…but apparently all that nonsense is bypassed in this case.

Merck outlines a process by which technicians identify “the virus” that could threaten pigs on a farm, then remove genes from that virus, and finally insert a particular “gene of interest” into a customized vaccine.

An RNA vaccine, which deploys nanoparticles.

. . .

If anyone finds, on the label, of these pig products a mention of RNA vaccines having been injected into the meat, let me know. I’m not holding my breath.

The overall assumption here (and you must understand this) is that tinkering with genes and nanoparticles is a widely understood and controlled process which is quite safe these days. And therefore, no dire warnings are necessary. Certainly no ban is necessary. Heaven forbid.

However, when scientists fiddle with genes to make animals’ eyes glow in the dark like headlights and wind up with animals who have extra-floppy ears and much longer tongues, I have a different view.

. . .

And here we are.

With genetically modified pigs. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

If you think that such vaccines will be limited to dealing with diseases affecting pigs, you're dreaming.  What a wonderful way to inflict mRNA vaccines on everybody!  Just add it to their food!  There have already been attempts to add such vaccines to plants.  Then came milk.  Now it's pigs - as predicted in these pages this time last year.  Next?  How about beef, or lamb, or chickens?  If a farmer doesn't want to use or administer such vaccines, how long will he be allowed to sell his produce on the open market?  The authorities can shut him down at any time for "breaching food safety regulations" - and the news media will back them up.

I previously published a link to Kit Knightly's article " 'Genetically Edited' Food – The next stage of the Great Reset?"  If you missed it last time, go read it now.  It's very thought-provoking . . . and, I think, prophetic.  Last time, I concluded:

We are not facing a series of accidents, or coincidences, or unrelated trends.  We're seeing multiple facets of the same threat to our independence, our constitution, our human rights.  We're seeing a totalitarian onslaught against freedom on a worldwide scale.

This latest news does nothing to make me change that opinion.


It's the Boston Tea Party in reverse!


I had to laugh at the brouhaha in Britain over an American professor's recommendations for brewing tea.

The British claim to know a thing or two when it comes to making a good cup of tea.

The beverage is a cultural institution in the UK, where an estimated 100 million cups are drunk every day.

But now a scientist based more than 3,000 miles away in the US claims to have found the secret to a perfect cuppa that many Brits would initially find absolutely absurd - adding salt.

Prof Michelle Francl's research has caused quite the stir in the UK, and has even drawn a diplomatic intervention from the US Embassy.

There's more at the link.

In response to the furore, the US Embassy in London put out this statement.  Click the image for a larger view.

However, the British Cabinet Office (nose firmly in air, and doubtless clutching their teacups in horror) disagreed.

In response, to the statement put out by the US Embassy in the UK: 

We appreciate our Special Relationship, however, we must disagree wholeheartedly...

Tea can only be made using a kettle.

I'm informed there's no truth to the rumor that outraged British tea-lovers are planning to empty the tanks of Coca-Cola plants throughout England into the North Sea . . . even though it might improve the flavor of their fish and chips!


The future of our decaying cities?


Yesterday, in an article titled "Looks like interesting times ahead for city business districts", I highlighted the crisis in commercial real estate, and warned that it was going to get worse.  In the comments to that article, reader pyotr forecast:

"I wonder what it will be like to be in a downtown full of abandoned high rise buildings."

Bad. Squatters camping in them, fires. Eventually one will collapse, not neatly, and 'there goes the neighborhood'. Clearing the streets will cost too much. Later rinse repeat.

Possibly, before that starts happening, there will be a resettlement - cities are where they are for reasons - and the old structures will be minded for resources.

He's right.  We can already see that happening in some inner-city areas in the USA, and it's common enough in collapsing Third World states.  As an example, here's a city where I lived for eight years, Johannesburg in South Africa.  Well over a hundred buildings in its central business district are now derelict, overrun by squatters, ruled by urban gangs who extort payment from anyone wanting to live there - and able to do so because there's nowhere else to live.  They're very dangerous places, not least because nobody has any sense of what's safe or acceptable.  Last year a fire killed 77 people in one such building.  Police have just arrested a self-confessed suspect in that case.

As for Johannesburg as a whole . . . I spent eight years of my life there.  It used to be a First World city.  In less than two generations, it's cratered to Third World standards, and fairly low Third World standards at that.  According to friends who are still there, parts of it now resemble the worst slums in Haiti.  I can examine satellite images of the area where I used to live, and see the quite incredible urban decay around my former home.  It's sickening to see.

Here's a longer documentary about life in Johannesburg these days.  I don't like its style or narration, but it does convey the reality of day-to-day existence there.  I'm glad I no longer live there, and I grieve to see places I lived and worked brought so low.

As for those who think that can't happen here in the USA, it already isBack in 2019 I highlighted a three-part documentary series from station KOMO in Seattle, Washington.  The final report was titled simply, "Seattle Is Dying".  In case you missed it then, here it is again.  Click through to the earlier report to see the first two parts in the series.

Seattle's not alone in that.  Just last month I noted a TV documentary from Minneapolis titled "The Fall of Minneapolis".  Click through there to watch that video, if you can stomach it.

Friends, you may not want to believe it, but that is quite literally what's coming to many major US cities within the next decade.  The influx of millions of Third World immigrants under the Biden administration guarantees it.  They aren't going to be magically converted to First World citizens by crossing the Rio Grande.  No, they're bringing their Third World attitudes, habits and behaviors with them - and we're already seeing them in action, to the detriment of the places they're being settled.  That's going to continue, and increase.

Get out of big Democrat-controlled cities now.  Don't delay to squeeze the last penny in value out of selling your home;  don't be tied down by family connections;  don't wait until it's too late.  Leave now, and take your loved ones with you.  If any of them won't leave, that's on them, not you.  Your primary responsibility is to your immediate family, your spouse and children.  If you and they decide to stay in our big cities, you've just seen what's coming your way.  On your own head be the consequences of that decision.


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Not your average romantic accessory...


Cedar Sanderson e-mailed me the link to this Valentine's Day gift via the San Antonio Zoo in Texas.

Yes, it's a hippo dung scented candle!  The zoo describes it as follows.

Did you know, hippo poop is the cologne of the hippo world and is used to impress potential mates?

So, if you’re looking to turn up the heat and attract that special someone, our poop-scented Hippo-Love Candle is the rizz you need. The scent of seduction will have potential mates flocking to you like never before.

This one-of-a-kind candle captures our famous hippo, Timothy’s, signature scent of hippo poop. Embrace the power of nature this Valentine’s season and give this memorable gift that will certainly take you from date to mate.

Having been in the presence of far too many hippopotami for comfort, particularly at close quarters, I'm here to tell you that I've never seen a female hippo all a-twitter over the scent (?) of a male hippo's dung in the water.  "The cologne of the hippo world" indeed!  Hippo dung is very useful to feed small fish and fertilize underwater vegetation, but I somehow don't see it as an aphrodisiac.  Wikipedia says of their behavior:

Hippos engage in "muck-spreading" which involves defecating while spinning their tails to distribute the faeces over a greater area. Muck-spreading occurs both on land and in water and its function is not well understood. It is unlikely to serve a territorial function, as the animals only establish territories in the water.

Nevertheless, if flung dung strikes you as romantic, you can pick up a hippo-dung-scented candle from the Zoo's shop.  Personally, I'd think that a hunka hunka burning dung would produce the very opposite effect from that (presumably) desired . . . but what do I know?


Looks like interesting times ahead for city business districts


The "work-from-home" (whether you want to or not) push that resulted from the COVID-19 epidemic is having very nasty consequences for investors in commercial properties in city business districts.

Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick spoke with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on the sidelines at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week. He offered a bleak outlook on the commercial real estate sector, warning a "very ugly" two years is ahead. 

"Coming due in the next two and a half years at these higher rates - you're not going to get proceeds, meaning when you have a $120 million loan on a building, and someone says I'll give you 90 million at a much higher rate - than it throws the keys back to the lenders - and there's going to be a lot of them that are going to get wiped out," Lutnick told Bartiromo.

"I think $700 billion could default … The lenders are going to have to do things with them. They're going to be selling. It's going to be a generational change in real estate coming at the end of 2024 and all of 2025. We will be talking about real estate being just a massive change," Lutnick said.

He warned: "I think it's going to be a very, very ugly market in owning real estate over the next, you know, 18 months, two years."

There's more at the link.

True dat.  Interest rates are much higher today than they were even three or four years ago.  A mortgage at, say, 2% that's due to be renegotiated may end up costing the borrower 5% or 6% - and that's if his credit rating is extraordinarily good.  The additional cost of the higher interest rate may make his entire property uneconomical, because he can't charge enough in rent to cover it.

His customers won't care.  When companies realize that they can cut back their central office space by having people work from home, and can save millions (even billions) in the process, they're going to take that win.  Unfortunately, those who build the office blocks and other structures they previously used are going to be the losers.  When they can't rent out enough of their building space, they can't make enough in rent to afford mortgage payments, insurance premiums, city taxes, and so on . . . so they're stuck with a white elephant.  They can't sell it for what it cost them, either, because nobody will pay those old-fashioned inflated prices when they can't earn a sufficient return on their investment to cover them.  Already a number of owners of commercial properties have literally abandoned them to their mortgage holders, walking away from them because it's no longer economical to keep them running.

Unfortunately, it's not just building owners who face disaster.  There are all sorts of ancillary structures, systems, businesses and people who are affected.

  • Shops that catered to business employees - clothes, food, whatever - find their clientele has shrunk or vanished, so they go out of business, too, and their employees now find themselves without work.  That goes for every size of business, from department stores to restaurants to food carts on the street.  No customers = no way to stay in business.
  • Cities that have built business district infrastructure to support a given population of workers now find that the number of workers has shrunk significantly, so that they no longer need all that infrastructure.  However, it can't simply be turned off.  Sewers must be cleaned;  water pipes must be repaired when they break;  electrical cables, switchboards and circuits must be maintained.  Failure to do any of that will result in cascading problems that will cost more to fix than maintaining the infrastructure.  Unfortunately, the companies in business districts, and the owners of buildings there, are no longer paying enough in municipal rates and taxes to support that cost.  What to do?
  • Cities as a whole - including their schools, residential suburbs, etc. - are going to have to find enough money to support their business districts;  but to do so, they'll probably have to cut services to other areas, because they can't do everything for everybody if they no longer have the income needed to support that.  They'll hire fewer staff (and possibly lay off some that they already have), cut back on purchases of vehicles, infrastructure and equipment, defund expensive services like police and fire departments, and generally be forced to economize.  However, cities are major economic consumers.  If they cut back, they'll affect almost every major corporation in the country.
There are all sorts of considerations like that which make it difficult to foresee where the collapse in commercial real estate values may lead us.  However, we can be pretty sure it's not going to be an easy or comfortable ride.  We're already seeing sections of central business districts that are almost moribund, with most major companies having fled to more attractive (and cheaper) areas of town, leaving behind office buildings without occupants, restaurants without customers, and hotels without guests.  "Urban decay" may - probably will - become more widespread.

All of which leads me back to something I've said many times in the past, for reasons of safety and security as well as all these problems.  If you live in any of our "big blue" cities - those dominated by Democratic Party governments, focusing on ideology rather than reality, big on theory and short on pragmatism and practicality - leave them.  Now.  Go somewhere that's ruled by sanity rather than neo-Marxist theoretical claptrap.


Looks like we've got a new demon in the drug war...


I'd never heard of nitazenes, but apparently they're a growing threat to illicit drug users.  They've even made an appearance in this part of North Texas, which is way out in the sticks compared to the big cities as far as drug dealers go.  It looks bad.

While politicians and policymakers amp up calls for more brutal crackdowns on fentanyl smuggling, a “new” class of synthetic opioids has been showing up in overdose victims with the potential to make America look back on the fentanyl crisis as “the good old days.”  

Chemists refer loosely to this category of drugs as “nitazenes,” even though the term is incorrect; it should be “benzimidazole-based opioids.” The Swiss drug maker CIBA, now part of Novartis, developed the first nitazenes in the late 1950s as potential pain treatments. However, none was approved because they were too dangerously potent.  

In 2020, the World Health Organization reported that isotonitazene (which drug users call “iso” or “tony”) began appearing in forensic toxicology reports in six European countries, Canada and the United States. In 2022, the Tennessee Department of Health reported that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids classified as nitazeneshave increased fourfold in just two years. 

. . .

These drugs are not only appearing in adulterated opioids. A U.K. drug testing service determined that, since September, nitazenes have been found in 20 samples of black-market benzodiazepines (common tranquilizers such as Xanax) taken from all parts of the country.

People who purchase benzodiazepines on the black market wouldn’t expect nitazenes to be a contaminant and could become overdose victims.

. . .

News reports about the growing presence of nitazenes among the mix of street drugs should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with what has come to be known as “the iron law of prohibition.” Drug policy analysts often phrase it as, “The harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.” 

Drug prohibition drives the creation of more potent drug forms to enhance business efficiency. Smaller drug packages simplify smuggling, enabling dealers to subdivide stronger forms into smaller portions for sale, improving their risk/benefit ratio.

The "iron law" explains the rise in THC concentration in cannabis, the shift from powdered cocaine to crack cocaine, and the progression from cracking down on black market prescription pain pills to the emergence of heroin and, subsequently, fentanyl. 

There's more at the link.

The article appears to be written from the perspective that prohibition of drugs is bad;  that the "War On Drugs" has not worked, and should therefore be reconsidered.  I can't argue with the truth of the underlying premise.  "Hard" drugs are cheaper and more easily obtained today than at any time in the past, and there doesn't seem to be any improvement in sight.  What's more, an entire "industry" has grown up around the War On Drugs, with tens of thousands of people employed and millions of dollars spent every year in a (so far) fruitless effort to stem the tide of illegal narcotics flooding our streets.

The problem with abandoning prohibition as a policy is that it does have its successes - they just aren't publicized as widely as its failures.  Without the laws making street narcotics illegal, and giving our law enforcement authorities the legal tools to crack down on them, I think the situation would be a lot worse.  On the other hand, I also have to accept that "drug money" has corrupted many law enforcement personnel and agencies, to such an extent that we're no longer surprised to find officers on trial for distributing drugs and protecting drug dealers.  Where there's almost unlimited money to be made, that works on both sides of the street.  Furthermore, too many law officers have learned to "throw their weight around", to bully the rest of us because the law provides them too much protection from the consequences of their actions.  That's as destructive to a law-abiding society as drugs themselves.

I come at the problem from the perspective of the victims.  Being a retired pastor and prison chaplain, I've seen the effects of ruined lives and destroyed families that drugs leave behind them.  I've seen the survivors of people killed while under the influence of drugs, or murdered by someone on drugs, and I know their anguish.  I don't think we dare take off what restraints there are, because if we did, those problems would be multiplied instantly and many times over.  We can't prevent them, but we can at least minimize them compared to what they'd be without anti-drug laws and actions.

What's the answer?  I have no idea.  I've heard many say that we should simply abandon Naloxone, the drug to "bring back" victims of fentanyl overdoses, and let them die, because that's the only way to solve the demand side of the "supply and demand" equation.  Unfortunately, that won't stop the problem, because dealers and pushers will continue to distribute their product, and pressure or tempt people into trying it (the drug-dealer advertising stickers saying "First fix is free!" aren't a joke;  they're real - I've seen them in more than one inner-city area).  There are also those who say that mandatory execution for drug dealers would fix it, but it hasn't in the past.  Where there's a demand, and there's money to be made from it, somebody will fill that demand.  If it's costly or dangerous to do so, they'll simply raise their price until it's worth it to them to take that risk.

I wish I could see a way forward.  The only thing I can realistically, practically counsel is to avoid using such drugs ourselves, and see to it that our kids are protected from their temptation until such time that they're mature enough to understand the dangers.  Yes, that may mean taking them out of the school system altogether and home-schooling them.  That's part of the price we pay for allowing things to get this bad over time.