Denatonium Benzoate loses its crown

Also known as Bitrex, Denatonium Benzoate held the record for the most bitter substance on earth until 24th June 2016. A teaspoon of the substance added to an Olympic size swimming pool (volume 2.5M litres) makes the water noticeably bitter. Bitrex has been a very successful additive to poisonous substances to prevent accidental ingestion, such as car antifreeze.

Sadly for manufacturer Macfarlan Smith, since 24th June Bitrex's record has been overtaken by the UK Guardian opinion page. One opening paragraph has the same bitterness impact as approximately 300ml of Denatonium Benzoate. Rumours suggest that Macfarlan Smith has opened negotiations with Jonathan Freedland, Nick Cohen and Polly Toynbee for purchase of their spleens as a manufacturing source of the Bitrex successor.

It is serendipitous that the name "Bitrex" is an anagram of the new product: "Brexit".


Toys firmly out of prams

I predicted a certain amount of tantrums, but really didn't think it would get this bad this quickly. Scotland and London wanting to split off and rejoin Europe, Labour Party stalwarts gunning for Corbyn (who, up until a couple of hours ago, must have thought he'd played a blinder) and Twitter and Facebook in meltdown with Remainers calling Leavers "racist idiots" and worse.

Heavens sake, you're all adults, bloody act like it. This was a full national referendum with a turnout of 74% which is way above recent elections. If your side lost, sit down and put up with it. Don't whine like a three year old deprived of an ice cream. Leave seem to have been a heck of a lot more restrained in their unexpected win than you'd have been in their place.

Not entirely surprised by Cameron chucking the towel in. He seems to be one of the few people today (and maybe the only Remainer) acting with dignity.


Referendum predictions

I have no idea on the actual result. I don't think I could place a bet if I was offered 50:50 odds on each choice. That said, the breakdown by region is going to be very interesting, and I wonder if the rain/floods will hit turnout in the SE, and whether that will make a material difference.

If "Remain" wins: The Guardian (and, less obviously, BBC) will be insufferable. Juncker et al will keep true to their promise not to give any concessions to the UK, even if the result is knife-edge. UKIP effectively dissolves in a frenzied pit of backbiting. Who knows what the UKIP voters will do at the next election?

If "Leave" wins: Immediate witch-hunt from Guardian, BBC. Cameron resigns. Panic in Europe. Stock markets burning. Sweden and maybe Denmark start feeling popular pressure to exit or form referendum. Juncker et al refuse any trade deals with the UK. Boris's hair a fixture on the international news.

I've observed my Facebook stream becoming increasingly stridently pro-Remain over the past 2 weeks. The Leavers are keeping very quiet, presumably because they're swamped by insufferable Remainers if they post anything. Remain posts seem to be relatively free of Leaver comments. So is this due to Remain having an insurmountable majority, due to me having a supermajority of Remain friends, or because the Leavers don't care what the Remainers think or do?

Going by their selection of stories and interviewees, the BBC have steadily abandoned impartiality over the past couple of weeks. The only really studiously neutral Beebite I've seen has been the indefatigueable Kuenssberg.


Weasel will find a way

After the furore last year when it turned out that UK airport shops were demanding boarding passes to save themselves VAT but not save you any money I assumed that this was the effective end of the weasel. From my recent experience at Birmingham International (motto: "We put the 'slack jaw' in 'security'") it seems not.

First stop: the bookshop, to buy some doorstop-sized illiterate literature. No shortage of supply. I present the volume to the lady at the till who demands: "Boarding pass?" with no hint of shame. I enquire whether it's actually mandatory, at which point she rings up the transaction with no further questions. 1-0.

Next stop: W H Smith, for a magazine. Avoiding the single human-manned till I opt for the self-service till. I scan the magazine for a grand total of £2.50 - and it asks for a boarding pass, and won't proceed until I scan one. I hit the "my boarding pass won't scan" button, wait a minute for the roaming attendant to punch the override and proceed on my way. But hell, I remember the huge fuss in August 2015 about this. It seems that the airport shops were content to let the hubbub die down, then go back to their old ways.

Don't let them do this! Make them pay a cost in salaried worker time for each time they demand a boarding pass. Once the average worker salary rate times delay is more than the expected VAT, they will shut up about the boarding passes and let us buy our dubious literature un-monitored and without delay. (Until 1-2 years later when some bright MBA spark spots an opportunity to re-introduce the practice, at which point we hang them from the Heathrow radar pillar as a warning to others.)


The implications of the "Out" threats

With the UK In/Out referendum less than three weeks away, and the BetFair odds on "Leave" starting to come down - albeit still very far from 50-50 - it has been instructive to listen to the veiled, and not so veiled, threats about what will happen if the populace vote for "Leave".

A good example was the comment in late May from Jean-Claude "Piss Artist" Juncker, European Commission President:

"The United Kingdom will have to accept being regarded as a third country, which won't be handled with kid gloves.
"If the British leave Europe, people will have to face the consequences -- we will have to, just as they will. It's not a threat but our relations will no longer be what they are today."
Apparently EU officials don't want to have lengthy negotiations[1] with a Brexited UK, which makes sense. But of course, the easiest course for both sides would be to retain status quo ante: continue trade under the same conditions and tariff schedule as before. Why wouldn't this be the starting point? In general, trade tariffs hurt the populace of the country / countries that impose them: they make imported goods more expensive for their populace. The main function of trade tariffs is to protect local industry from "abuse" from "dumping" by foreign manufacturers: selling goods below the cost of local produce. This may not be good for local industry, but it's certainly good for anyone who wants to buy those goods, at least in the short term.

It seems fairly clear that, whatever the merits of the "Remain" and "Leave" positions, the EU establishment is happy to cut off its population's noses to spite the UK's faces. One has to ask: if national membership of the EU is supposed to be of benefit to the population, why would the EU take action to screw over all their population in order to punish a member nation that wanted to leave?

[1] Note that the EU can apparently spare the manpower to negotiate a mostly free trade agreeement with Canada, which has half the population and a bit more than half the GDP of the UK.


I'm starting to think that Trump might just pull this off...

Trump's political opponents seem hell-bent on getting him elected. Dixit Linus Torvalds, father of Linux and otherwise political moderate:

It used to be that the only thing that made Donald Trump look good was comparing him with the other Republican candidates. Because even a whiny five-year old megalomaniac looks positively stellar when compared to a religious nut who loves the death penalty.
Now, those other Republican candidates are gone. That should make for a saner baseline, no?
These days, it's the anti-Trump protesters that make "the Donald" look good in comparison.
Christ, people. You're doing it wrong.

One can only assume that this is in reference to the sustained violence at the Trump rally in San Jose, CA last night which seemed to be perpetrated by a motley crew of students, Mexican nationalists and union-backed thugs and involved Trump supporters being pelted with eggs, sucker-punched, and clubbed on the side of the head. I watched the videos and it was indisputably appalling. The American Constitution has the First Amendment which guarantees the right to free speech; as P. J. O'Rourke remarked, it also implies the responsibility to live with the consequences. If you vocally support Trump because you hate people with brown skin, you're an asshat and the concomitant public opprobrium is your problem. But if you are physically attacked for supporting the Republican party candidate for President, then there are other laws which should come into play and they should be squarely aimed at - and enforced on - your attacker.

The Bay Area news organisations - with the commendable exception of KRON 4 were carefully keeping the lid on reports of the violence last night. Even CNN sat on it until reporting on the violence was unavoidable; even then, there were strenuous efforts to deflect the blame towards Trump. San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo's comments were particularly awful:

"Our police officers have done an extremely courageous and professional job so far," Liccardo told The Associated Press Thursday night. "At some point Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for the irresponsible behavior of his campaign."
Yes, heaven forfend that a Presidential candidate actually speak clearly about his intentions to enforce the law of the land and secure a nation's borders. There are very reasonable arguments to be had about whether this is a good idea or not, but the implicit blaming of Trump for the actions of the protestors was disgraceful. Liccardo has the luxury of an electorate who would vote him in based on party affiliation even if it came out that he framed OJ, spied for China, and buggered raccoons on his free weekends, so the concept of trying to win an election based on popular policy is doubtless alien to him. His blatant repudiation of the First Amendment might well be related to metropolitan California's sustained attack on the Second Amendment, but neither does him any credit.

Faced with a Twitter firestorm, he tried to walk this back later on:

but it's clear where his sympathies lie.

If I were Donald Trump, I'd be campaigning from now until November in Democrat stronghold cities around the USA. It won't win me those states, but the widely-reported predictable riots and abuse from the opposition will steadily win me marginal voters in every marginal state around the country. Even if those marginal voters can't stand me (or my hair), they'd rather be with me than the scumballs throwing eggs and beating up women.