Panopticon Creep: UK Edition

Once upon a time, London was the world’s most-surveilled city. This position has since been usurped by Chongqing, a city in the Sichuan province which boasts one hundred sixty-eight cameras per one thousand people. Perhaps upset over the loss of their title, Boris Johnson has decided it’s high time that the UK began compiling records of its citizens’ web traffic.

tl;dr: Here’s an executive summary based on my reading of the linked article.

  • Currently, the various parts of the government collect analytics on how people use their websites.
  • BoJo would like to combine all of this data, creating profiles of how each individual uses the whole government’s online offerings.
  • This is to be done ASAP and in secret. The rationale for this is mumble mumble Brexit.
  • This data will be “anonymized”, which is not particularly meaningful at this level of specificity. While an analyst armed with this database would not be able to find a person’s usage by searching for their name, the same analyst could easily derive a person’s name from their usage.

Drilling into some detail now:

Boris Johnson has secretly ordered the Cabinet Office to turn the government’s public internet service into a platform for “targeted and personalised information” to be gathered in the run-up to Brexit, BuzzFeed News has learned.

In a move that has alarmed Whitehall officials, the prime minister has instructed departments to share data they collect about usage of the GOV.UK portal so that it can feed into preparations for leaving the European Union at the end of next month.

[…]
At present, usage of GOV.UK is tracked by individual departments, not collected centrally. According to the documents seen by BuzzFeed News, the Cabinet Office’s digital unit, the government digital service (GDS), will add an additional layer of tracking that “will enable GDS to have data for the entire journey of a user as they land on GOV.UK from a Google advert or an email link, read content on GOV.UK, click on a link taking them from GOV.UK to a service and then onwards through the service journey to completion”.

In the personal minute, Johnson told members of the XO committee that GDS had been asked to turn the GOV.UK portal into a “platform to allow targeted and personalised information to be gathered, analysed and fed back actively to support key decision making” in the run-up to Brexit.

This is exactly what Facebook, Google, et al. tell us about the value of targeted advertising; oh how we’ll appreciate their knowing everywhere we go and every website we look at. Just think of all the highly personalized ads we can experience! But the UK government is not, of course, a corporation. We’ve seen what the Cambridge Analyticas of the world can do with access to fairly basic demographic information. Imagine what could be done with the sort of information the government is likely to have–especially a government that’s already up to their eyeballs in collusion with, er, Cambridge Analytica.

No bother, though; I’m sure this has nothing to do with the election BoJo hopes to hold in the near future.


Full disclosure: I have worked in advertising technology on and off for several years, and currently hold a position at a data-management platform in the industry.






94 replies
  1. 1
    Mary G says:

    Well, that’s not creepy at all.

    ReplyReply
  2. 2
    SFAW says:

    Nice to see BoJo Horses-ass taking a page out of his master’s playbook. I eagerly await his renaming of MI-6 to FSB, etc. Outstanding!

    ReplyReply
  3. 3
    Baud says:

    At least nyms will be saved. Right?

    ReplyReply
  4. 4
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    So Boris sees V for Vendetta as a goal?

    ReplyReply
  5. 5
    Yutsano says:

    Protip for Boris: if one does not wish to be perceived as a mule/toady for Putin, one should probably not do things that will cause high suspicion that one is doing just that. Wasn’t Boris supposed to be some kind of crazy like a fox genius?

    Also: I don’t even understand how he’s Prime Minister other than there is zero collaboration to actually oust him that doesn’t make Corbyn the new PM.

    ReplyReply
  6. 6
    Bnad says:

    Shades of Cambridge Analytica

    ReplyReply
  7. 7

    @Yutsano:

    I don’t even understand how he’s Prime Minister other than there is zero collaboration to actually oust him that doesn’t make Corbyn the new PM.

    Current polling shows that 50% of voters would vote Labour or LibDems, and 50% would vote Conservative or Brexit. It’s my understanding that the LibDems draw heavily from disaffected Tories and that their support tends to collapse at the ballot box. As holding an election requires a 2/3 vote in Parliament, there’s no supermajority that wants to roll those dice right now.

    ReplyReply
  8. 8
    MattF says:

    Just as a wild surmise here… Is there a possibility that Boris would want the UK government to collect and correlate information about his political enemies?

    ReplyReply
  9. 9
    Gravenstone says:

    @SFAW: BoJack Horseman demands an apology!

    ReplyReply
  10. 10
    Kent says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    There is a certain perverse logic to how things are progressing. Endless elections are something of a major pain in the ass for most politicians. I can see how many of them would be loath to do a no confidence vote and have to go back to the campaign trail so quickly with no assurance of the outcome. At the same time no on really seems to want Borris. So perhaps the best solution is a neutered Borris for a spell since no one seems to have a better idea.

    I don’t entirely understand the British system but I do think to be rid of Borris they need to go through new elections and I can understand how MPs might have second thoughts about that. Correct me if I’m wrong here guys.

    ReplyReply
  11. 11
    mrmoshpotato says:

    Boris Johnson has decided it’s high time that the UK began compiling records of its citizens’ web traffic.

    I see Boris wants to take the title of Soviet shitpile extraordinaire from Dump.

    What do you think they’ll name the UK Stasi?

    ReplyReply
  12. 12
    Yutsano says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    As holding an election requires a 2/3 vote in Parliament, there’s no supermajority that wants to roll those dice right now.

    Corbyn refuses to pull that trigger until Boris agrees to get forced into an extension. Boris wants to drag things past the 31st of October so the UK falls out of the EU without a deal and everything breaks. It’s going to be a matter of who is going to win this particular game of chicken. It’s only a sovereign nation and founding member of NATO with 30+ million people on the line. IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A BIG DEAL OR ANYTHING?!?!

    ETA: my computer keyboard at work needs the interrobang. And I miss occasional commenter Interrobang as well.

    ReplyReply
  13. 13

    @MattF: I don’t know enough about what sort of information they’d have access to under this scheme to say whether that’s feasible. My gut says that this is more the sort of thing that’s used to make life harder for minorities.

    @Yutsano:

    Corbyn refuses to pull that trigger until Boris agrees to get forced into an extension.

    He has, of course, already been forced into asking for one, assuming he cares about things like ‘laws’ (debatable).

    ReplyReply
  14. 14
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @SFAW: FSB – new UK branch! “Now spying on citizens in English, broskovich!”

    ReplyReply
  15. 15

    @Yutsano: I actually have an interrobang tattoo, fun fact. Five inches, upper arm, not subtle. The interrobang is a lifestyle, really.

    ReplyReply
  16. 16
    Baud says:

    @Yutsano:

    I got you, man. ‽

    ReplyReply
  17. 17
    Yutsano says:

    @Major Major Major Major: As the kids say: pics or GTFO.

    I’m not certain if the interrobang has an ASCII code. I’d love to have that in the old wheelhouse.

    @Baud: Yee. This is the kind of content I keep coming back to this blog for.

    ReplyReply
  18. 18

    @Yutsano: nah, but it’s in Unicode of course, just like the germ emoji 🦠 which recently hit wide support.

    ReplyReply
  19. 19
    Leto says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques: BoJo watched, “Years and Years” and said: I want that!

    ReplyReply
  20. 20
    Calouste says:

    @Yutsano: The opposition uses the not unreasonable assumption that the longer Johnson is going to be around, the more he’s going to fuck up. As well as that at one point his bluster is going to run into hard reality. All the talk about getting a deal from the EU is going to come to nothing because he doesn’t have a plan. The opposition can call for a vote of no confidence at any time.

    ReplyReply
  21. 21
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Yutsano:

    my computer keyboard at work needs the interrobang.

    Mine too. But I comfort myself in the sure and certain knowledge that I have both a virgule and an octothorp.

    ReplyReply
  22. 22
    Yutsano says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Is that a germ or a bacterium? Either way it’s kind of cute!

    I’ve been watching a series of videos called TLDR News. They’re on YouTube. It’s a group of British lads who were going to do just a series on news analysis when Brexit hit like a freight train. They released a video this morning but I hadn’t gotten to watch it yet and probably won’t until much later tonight. I do highly recommend them as a good way to listen rather than read about Brexit.

    ReplyReply
  23. 23
  24. 24
    Baud says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Oooh, I didn’t know you were so fancy.

    ReplyReply
  25. 25
    Doug R says:

    I understand companies not wanting to waste $ on advertising to people hostile to their products, but how does personalized advertising actually help me? All it does is reinforce my biases and squeeze me to spend more $.

    ReplyReply
  26. 26
    HeleninEire says:

    Not really OT. Kinda. Since Brexit may well affect me and mine.

    WOO HOO. Boarding at JFK. Headed to Dublin for my birthday on Friday. See y’all on the other side of the pond.

    ReplyReply
  27. 27
    Baud says:

    @Doug R:

    I don’t think I’ve ever purposefully clicked on an ad, but presumably it provides people information about products or services they’d be interested in, as opposed to a scattershot approach. So, for example, I’d never see an ad for baby products because I don’t have any babies.

    ETA: I now recall clicking on an ad once, although I didn’t purchase through the ad.

    ReplyReply
  28. 28
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Baud:

    I also have a pilcrow and an obelus, but I don’t talk about them much.

    ReplyReply
  29. 29
    Yutsano says:

    @Calouste: It’s like no one remembers he was mayor of London for a hot minute and couldn’t avoid stepping on his dick even if he silly walked everywhere. The man is ultimately an idiot. If he has some clever mad strategy I really have yet to see it. I’m not convinced this is crazy like a fox territory. He’s just an idiot.

    @SiubhanDuinne: Braggart. :P

    @Major Major Major Major: Heh. That term used to set my microbiology professor on edge.

    Funny story: after finishing basic micro I very seriously considered dropping music for micro. I ultimately didn’t but the temptation was really strong.

    ReplyReply
  30. 30
    Yutsano says:

    @HeleninEire: My parents will be there Monday! HAVE ALL THE FUN!!!

    ReplyReply
  31. 31
    Baud says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Understandable. People can get resentful.

    ReplyReply
  32. 32
    Baud says:

    @HeleninEire: Safe travels.

    ReplyReply
  33. 33
    Dev Null says:

    @Major Major Major Major: UTF-16 for ‽ is 203D, at least in my antique windowing software.

    Key sequence for the same software (E2A: my key sequence was elided and I ran out of time) … but everyone has a different recipe.

    Which reminds me of an old Unix joke:

    Q. what do you get when you lock 5 BSD programmers in a room?

    A. 5 dead BSD programmers and 6 new BSD variants.

    [crickets]

    Hmm, maybe it’s funny only if you have worked with BSD programmers.

    ReplyReply
  34. 34

    @Baud: @Doug R: I actually get pretty helpful targeted ads for local events. I wouldn’t have known about Ghibli Fest or an upcoming Warren rally otherwise, for a couple top-of-the-head examples. Well, I might have found out about the Warren rally, but I do value my targeted event experience. YMMV

    ReplyReply
  35. 35
    NotMax says:

    @SiubhanDuinne

    I certainly hope you brought enough for everyone.

    ;)

    ReplyReply
  36. 36

    @Dev Null: I don’t even know where I’d find five BSD programmers.

    ReplyReply
  37. 37
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Baud:

    So, for example, I’d never see an ad for baby products because I don’t have any babies.

    Several years ago, when I was still working, my office mates all got together to purchase a nice stroller or pram or something as a shower gift for a pregnant colleague. Because at the time I was the only one who had an Amazon Prime account, I agreed to put it on my account to avoid what would have been a hefty shipping fee. I got ads and recommendations for all kinds of baby stuff for months and months — not just from Amazon, but from all over the place. Annoying as fuck.

    ReplyReply
  38. 38
    Dev Null says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I think you’re trolling us. Every modern OS has composition sequences for unicode.

    The sequence I wanted to give above was alt-shift-!-?, but I put stoopidly put everything in angle brackets and the editor ate the text between angle brackets, natch.

    ReplyReply
  39. 39
    Brachiator says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Current polling shows that 50% of voters would vote Labour or LibDems, and 50% would vote Conservative or Brexit. It’s my understanding that the LibDems draw heavily from disaffected Tories and that their support tends to collapse at the ballot box. As holding an election requires a 2/3 vote in Parliament, there’s no supermajority that wants to roll those dice right now.

    There will have to be a general election relatively soon. The Conservatives do not have a majority anymore, a problem made worse by Johnson expelling 21 MPs from the party.

    The opposition is more or less waiting for an extension to BREXIT to be confirmed.

    The polls are not particularly meaningful right now. The BREXIT Party barely exists and some past Lib Dem support was based on dissatisfaction with Labour’s position on BREXIT.

    Boris Johnson’s term as prime minister might be incredibly short. But right now it looks like it might be difficult for any party to win a majority. Another shaky coalition would not be good for anyone.

    ReplyReply
  40. 40
    NotMax says:

    @Major Major Major Major

    There are ads on the internet? Speaking of things computerish –

    Firefox’s latest version blocks third-party trackers by default for everyone

    Before, only 20 percent of users had it turned on

    Source

    ReplyReply
  41. 41
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Baud:

    It’s why I haven’t mentioned them until now.

    ReplyReply
  42. 42
    Obvious Russian Troll says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I personally think the big effect of targeted advertising will be to make more people use ad blockers.

    ReplyReply
  43. 43
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @NotMax:

    Only for the deserving :-)

    ReplyReply
  44. 44
    Dev Null says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Well, maybe it was 3 BSD programmers and 5 new BSD variants.

    Probably in Europe, unless you’re willing to accept programmers familiar with the BSD layer in Mac OSX.

    (I misspoke. The renderer ate the text and angle brackets. The editor was perfectly /fine/ with them, grrr.)

    ReplyReply
  45. 45
    Jay says:

    JEEZ! This is a U.S. immigration judge: “Want me to go get the dog?” the judge yelled at a 2-year-old Guatemalan boy. “Do you want him to bite you?” . https://t.co/rCBmTMgVIc @nlanard via @MotherJones #Guatemala #immigration— Mike Dorning (@MikeDorning) September 10, 2019

    ReplyReply
  46. 46
    Leto says:

    @Yutsano: John Oliver did a good piece on BoJo last month. Basically he’s smart (highly educated, of course), but plays the buffoon. Unlike our Wussillini (dumb/dumb).

    Boris Johnson: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. About 20 mins.

    ReplyReply
  47. 47
    Dev Null says:

    @NotMax: uMatrix and Disconnect are useful with chrome.

    ReplyReply
  48. 48
    R-Jud says:

    Hooray, I was checking on some tax things for my HMRC return on the gov.uk domain today. Nice to know I’ll be tracked that little bit more.

    ReplyReply
  49. 49

    @NotMax: I think it goes against our style guide to recommend everybody install an adblocker (I use AdGuard!), but you should definitely all figure out how to turn off third-party cookies on your browser(s) of choice. I wrote a post about it here somewhere.

    @SiubhanDuinne: Amazon’s product recommendations are literally used as examples of bad recommendation engines in books about writing such things.

    @Dev Null: Yeah, you gotta HTML escape all that stuff.

    ReplyReply
  50. 50
    Dev Null says:

    @Jay: Another candidate for an all-expenses-paid tour of The Hague, and a long – very long – enforced vacation afterwards.

    ReplyReply
  51. 51
    Brachiator says:

    @Yutsano:

    I’ve been watching a series of videos called TLDR News. They’re on YouTube.

    You might take a look at the series called A Different Bias. It’s a one man operation by a guy who is a strong Labour supporter who also supports Remain, but who is very clear about the strengths and failings of all the major parties. Some of his takes on BREXIT accurately anticipated the shift in strategy by the opposition away from wanting a new general election as soon as possible.

    He also has been very good on the importance of the Irish backstop and on Johnson’s lies and inconsistencies.

    ReplyReply
  52. 52
    MattF says:

    @Dev Null: This discussion sent me down the Unicode rabbit hole for a while… Yeah, there’s a code point for an interrobang and for an inverted interrobang— for Hispanic users, I guess. And there’s an app that will supply these symbols on your iOS device for an additional fee of only $2.99.

    ReplyReply
  53. 53

    @MattF:

    And there’s an app that will supply these symbols on your iOS device for an additional fee of only $2.99.

    And here I am, making free custom autocompletes like a sucker.

    ReplyReply
  54. 54
    Dev Null says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Yeah, you gotta HTML escape all that stuff.

    Hmm, I wonder if UTF-16 angle brackets have to be escaped.

    e.g. this is a test: <this is a test>

    [suddenly, a minute passed]

    Yep, looks like the renderer ignores UTF-16 angle brackets.

    Who knew?

    As the style guide I consulted sez: always better to use a normal-looking character (*cough* that isn’t normal*cough*) than an escape sequence.

    ReplyReply
  55. 55
    chopper says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    that’s cause they’re all dead.

    ReplyReply
  56. 56
    Fair Economist says:

    @Major Major Major Major: It’s more complicated than that, and there’s been a pretty consistent if slim majority against Brexit. Electoral Calculus estimates 46% for Tory+Brexit, 44% for Lab+Lib, 8% for assorted other anti-Brexit parties, and 2% other, resulting in a Tory MP majority in Parliament in spite of only getting 33% of the vote. That’s messed up.

    That said, I think the actual Tory vote will slip a bit in view of Boris’ antics and the numerous expulsions and resignations, so if I were a betting man I’d bet on a hung parliament. I wouldn’t want to have to bet on this, though.

    ReplyReply
  57. 57
    jl says:

    The words ‘secrete’ and ‘secretly’ come up often with Johnson. I guess the good news is that he, or those around him, are not very good at keeping them.
    I don’t know enough about UK politics, but seems like there is at least minimal spine there among the politicians to foil Johnson’s secret plans, so far.
    Was nice to see twenty plus MPs of his own party tell him, even if only implicitly, to go to hell when Johnson tried his goon tactics on them.
    I’ve lost track of developments over the last few days, though.

    ReplyReply
  58. 58
    Jay says:

    NYT confirms parts of CNN's report and adds big details: The informant was instrumental to the CIA's conclusion that Putin ordered & orchestrated Russia's interference campaign & the assessment that Putin favored Trump and personally ordered the DNC hack.https://t.co/F2v9ApeQv2— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 9, 2019

    ReplyReply
  59. 59

    @Brachiator: @Fair Economist: Thanks, always good to get better info on that stuff.

    ReplyReply
  60. 60
    Brachiator says:

    @Calouste:

    All the talk about getting a deal from the EU is going to come to nothing because he doesn’t have a plan.

    All available evidence is that Johnson never seriously tried to make any deal and was simply trying to run out the clock and get a no deal BREXIT. Even the Irish prime minister pointed this out when he recently met with Johnson. On top of all this, the Conservatives seem to resent Ireland, bringing back historical British arrogance. This is incredibly foolish.

    The opposition can call for a vote of no confidence at any time.

    Right now, it appears that a general election could not be held until November at the earliest. The opposition is looking for Johnson to get a new extension. If he somehow wiggles out of this, all hell will break loose.

    ReplyReply
  61. 61
    jl says:

    @jl: Meant to type ‘secret’ not ‘secrete’. I don’t want to get into what political vibe Johnson secretes but whatever it is, it is not wholesome.
    Anyway, I need to catch up with developments over last week in UK Parliament, but i see a lot of pix of Johnson at the top of news articles on the internet that have him frowning and pouting, which bodes well.

    ReplyReply
  62. 62
    Dev Null says:

    @MattF: I’m willing to be big bucks – er, make that “one big buck” – that iOS provides a compose sequence for unicode.

    Admittedly, you have to know the UTF hex for the character you want before you can use the compose sequence, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

    ReplyReply
  63. 63
    Brachiator says:

    @jl:

    Was nice to see twenty plus MPs of his own party tell him, even if only implicitly, to go to hell when Johnson tried his goon tactics on them.

    But Johnson then expelled them from the party. This was an incredibly stupid move.

    Johnson is behaving like the naughty Eton school boy that he is. He thinks he is tough and smart and the leader of the Cool Kids, but his blunders fail and make potential allies fear and hate him.

    ReplyReply
  64. 64

    @MattF:

    This discussion sent me down the Unicode rabbit hole for a while…

    YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTING LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.

    ReplyReply
  65. 65
    Dev Null says:

    @Jay: Whoa! I missed that. That’s a BFD.

    I mean, the conclusion is hardly surprising, but still

    ReplyReply
  66. 66
    Dev Null says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    ALL DIFFERENT

    Are you SURE

    ReplyReply
  67. 67

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTING LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.

    look

    ReplyReply
  68. 68
    jl says:

    Interrobang is in Wingdings2 font in MS Word. Doesn’t work when pasted into this here blog’s comment box.

    ReplyReply
  69. 69
    Kristine says:

    Late to the party as per usual, but in Word (including MacWord) the interrobang is in the Wingdings 2 font. Use the tilde key.

    ReplyReply
  70. 70
    Dev Null says:

    @chopper:

    That’s because they’re all dead.

    I can’t believe I overlooked that response …

    ReplyReply
  71. 71
    piratedan says:

    @Jay: so there’s an actual smoking gun…. so after we remove Trump from office, perhaps we can go ahead and hang the GOP leadership to save ourselves the prison space because its apparently the ENTIRE Trump Administration that needs to be incarcerated.

    ReplyReply
  72. 72
    Jay says:

    BREAKING: The FEMA official in Puerto Rico, in charge of power restoration after Hurricane Maria, has been arrested by the FBI, as has the fmr. CEO of Cobra Energy (which got $1.8B in contracts) & a 2nd FEMA official…all accused of enriching themselves & defrauding the fed govt pic.twitter.com/bhl2a4hi2D— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) September 10, 2019

    ReplyReply
  73. 73
    Yutsano says:

    @Jay: shockedfry.gif

    ReplyReply
  74. 74
    Just Chuck says:

    @MattF:

    an inverted interrobang— for Hispanic users, I guess

    Also referred to as a “gnaborretni” … which sounds kinda Italian

    ReplyReply
  75. 75
    Dev Null says:

    @Jay: Doesn’t Trump insist on kickbacks in these situations?

    Or mebbe they were arrested because they didn’t pay up?

    ReplyReply
  76. 76
    TenguPhule says:

    @Jay:

    The FEMA official in Puerto Rico, in charge of power restoration after Hurricane Maria, has been arrested by the FBI, as has the fmr. CEO of Cobra Energy (which got $1.8B in contracts) & a 2nd FEMA official…all accused of enriching themselves & defrauding the fed govt

    Gonna need more rope. And lampposts.

    ReplyReply
  77. 77
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @Yutsano: Thanks for this recommendation. Watched one, sent recommendation on to son and to ex. Helps greatly that they’re short!

    ReplyReply
  78. 78
    TenguPhule says:

    Cake or Death
    @Johngcole
    Replying to @Johngcole
    the shit they pulled out of the vents was fucking terrifying. Prior to today, were my house a person, it would have had stage four lung cancer, COPD, and black lung.

    3m

    Cake or Death
    @Johngcole
    Replying to @Johngcole
    It just wasn’t something that was “on fire” so, I just couldn’t justify the expense. At any rate, I finally broke down and paid a professional service to come in with all their equipment, and they spent five hours cleaning every intake and heat/cool vent.

    Cole’s House Adventures Part VII: “In Which Cole finds out what was in the Vents and going into his lungs.”

    ReplyReply
  79. 79
    Jay says:

    "She's got to be stopped."Jim Cramer and a @CNBC panel discuss Wall Street executives being absolutely terrified of Elizabeth Warren and how they've never seen anything quite like it before. This is the greatest Warren campaign ad possible. pic.twitter.com/VCrGOfxOX0— Adam Best (@adamcbest) September 10, 2019

    ReplyReply
  80. 80
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @Brachiator: Also looks very informative. Thanks for fecommending.

    ReplyReply
  81. 81
    Dev Null says:

    @Dev Null:

    Dev Null: “Every modern OS has composition sequences for unicode.”

    The correctness of this statement is somewhat less so than I believed, and must be mitigated.

    I went looking for compose sequences on Windows, and this is what I found.

    So mebbe only *nix and derivatives have compose keys for unicode, unless you install an app.

    ReplyReply
  82. 82
    Brachiator says:

    @TenguPhule:

    The FEMA official in Puerto Rico, in charge of power restoration after Hurricane Maria, has been arrested by the FBI, as has the fmr. CEO of Cobra Energy (which got $1.8B in contracts) & a 2nd FEMA official…all accused of enriching themselves & defrauding the fed govt

    This is insane on so many levels. It also shows how stupid crooks often are. Trump himself brought attention to the issue of corruption in Puerto Rico, even though he was being racist and stupid. And yet, the crooked could not lay low or change their habits.

    ReplyReply
  83. 83
    TenguPhule says:

    @Brachiator:

    This is insane on so many levels.

    Yep. We no longer have a working FEMA and this should scare everyone.

    ReplyReply
  84. 84
    Tony Jay says:

    @Yutsano:

    Basically, Johnson lost his majority on Day One of Parliament returning from recess and then expelled 21 Tory rebels for reasons. The Opposition and the smaller parties, plus the expelled Tories – could – call a Vote of No Confidence and remove him, but…..

    As you note, there’s no consensus (yet) on who should lead the interim Government that would come in should Johnson not be able to reconstitute a new majority within 14 days of the VONC. Convention would assume the leader of the Opposition would get first crack of the whip, but that’s Jeremy Corbyn, and both the ‘moderate’ Tories and their former Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats made plain they had no intention of wasting three years of baseless smears and character assassination by suddenly acknowledging Bolshie Grandad’s democratic legitimacy, so the idea of a VONC was quietly shelved until (checks diary) sometime between October 14th and the first week in November.

    Johnson’s recent attempts to get Parliament to vote for a General Election were always more about playing to the rabid base and the Press than anything realistic. The Opposition won’t let him have one for the simple reason that he would control the date that Election would take place, and being the lying SOB everyone knows him to be they simply don’t trust him not to dissolve Parliament for a mid-October Election and then use his powers to change the date to November 1st, guaranteeing a No Deal Brexit. The fact that the Media have wrung a week’s worth of pondering and chin-stroking over why Johnson’s opponents seem so unwilling to take up his offer says a lot about how cringing shit they choose to be at their job, and that’s about it.

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  85. 85
    Brachiator says:

    @Tony Jay:

    The Opposition and the smaller parties, plus the expelled Tories – could – call a Vote of No Confidence and remove him, but…..

    As you note, there’s no consensus (yet) on who should lead the interim Government that would come in should Johnson not be able to reconstitute a new majority within 14 days of the VONC.

    Boris Johnson eliminated most of the acceptable candidates when he expelled the 21 members of his own party. But this also caused so much rancor that it ended up biting Corbyn in the ass.

    Convention would assume the leader of the Opposition would get first crack of the whip, but that’s Jeremy Corbyn…

    Bad assumption. Parliament was finally getting smart and separating the issue of BREXIT from the power struggle over who wants to be prime minister. They just needed a short term caretaker to ensure an extension. This didn’t have to be Corbyn.

    Parliament is still unable to work effectively across parties, but they are getting closer. And the idea that the leader of the opposition is automatically owed anything is the old thinking that originally got them into this mess.

    Johnson’s recent attempts to get Parliament to vote for a General Election were always more about playing to the rabid base and the Press than anything realistic. The Opposition won’t let him have one for the simple reason that he would control the date that Election would take place, and being the lying SOB everyone knows him to be they simply don’t trust him not to dissolve Parliament for a mid-October Election and then use his powers to change the date to November 1st, guaranteeing a No Deal Brexit.

    Yep. Again, this is also where the opposition understood that they had to separate dealing with BREXIT from fighting for control of the government.

    Also, Boris Johnson was trying to pull a nasty stunt. He had already managed to suspend Parliament for 5 weeks. At a certain point after the call for a general election, Parliament is dissolved. The government still functions, but there are technically no MPs. So, had he convinced the opposition to approve a general election, Johnson would have been free to cause all kinds of mischief with no one to stand in his way.

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  86. 86
    sm*t cl*de says:

    @Leto:

    Basically he’s smart (highly educated, of course), but plays the buffoon.

    There is no evidence of high intelligence from Johnston.

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  87. 87
    Keith P. says:

    @sm*t cl*de: Yeah, on one hand, he went to Oxford. On the other hand, AFAIK he’s from one of those families where you really *should* get into Oxford. And I recall someone saying something about him being something like a “2-1” grad instead of a “1-1″….it was something like that, but the British education system is so foreign to me, I don’t really recall it or even know what it meant other than it sounded like he was just an “OK” student. I read something else along those lines discussing his debate performances (lots of mid-thought flip-flops)

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  88. 88
    TenguPhule says:

    @Brachiator:

    They just needed a short term caretaker to ensure an extension. This didn’t have to be Corbyn.

    The alternatives won’t get Labour’s votes and have no chance to become PM. Its Corbyn or Boris.

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  89. 89
    TenguPhule says:

    @Brachiator:

    And the idea that the leader of the opposition is automatically owed anything is the old thinking that originally got them into this mess.

    The leader of the opposition have right of first refusal under GB’s unwritten constitution. For the Lib-Dems to think they can be in charge as the junior members of the Alliance smacks of arrogant entitlement which almost got their party destroyed in the first place.

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  90. 90
    Brachiator says:

    @TenguPhule:

    They just needed a short term caretaker to ensure an extension. This didn’t have to be Corbyn.

    The alternatives won’t get Labour’s votes and have no chance to become PM. Its Corbyn or Boris.

    I think they may be past the point where this matters.

    The leader of the opposition have right of first refusal under GB’s unwritten constitution. For the Lib-Dems to think they can be in charge as the junior members of the Alliance smacks of arrogant entitlement which almost got their party destroyed in the first place.

    I don’t think the Lib Dems are owed anything either. Hell, I am surprised that they have even made any kind of comeback, given their past disastrous association with the Conservatives.

    But an inability of the parties to form any effective cross party alliances for the sake of the country helped get them into this BREXIT mess. And it is possible that the UK is looking at another hung Parliament.

    Tradition and the unwritten constitution is fucking things up. They needed to separate the issue of a possible BREXIT extension from calling a general election in order to make sure that Boris Johnson did not lead the opposition into a trap. They need to continue to re-think old rules and traditions.

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  91. 91
    Steeplejack says:

    @Dev Null:

    Way late to the thread, but . . .

    Use &lt; and &gt; for < and > in HTML examples.

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  92. 92
    Dev Null says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Use < and > for in HTML examples.

    Thanks!

    At some point I (probably) knew this, but it’s been a very long time since I used it … and no, I didn’t remember, so again: thanks!

    Also too, UTF-16 works, or so it seems. I don’t know the reasoning that makes UTF-8 and UTF-16 characters with the same graphic representation syntactically different, but it’s convenient for some things, less convenient for others. Perhaps a flip-of-the-coin design decision.

    Tangentially, the use of < etc can lead to unintuitive results when you suck down a web page with wget (or, presumably, curl and other similar tools).

    e.g. if you generate a pseudo-random password at grc.com/passwords by pasting the URL into a browser, the “63 random printable chars” will show < and/or > or neither.

    But if you scrape the web page with wget, you get (eg):

    63 random printable ASCII characters:
    b.6LC”lJ&v)$k={‘t%[gO@N7&28xcr!’h.afh%9,0{4LxSlbFAQyOl_#P&lt;t-B~?

    (well, after eliminating all the surrounding HTML formatting … and I’ve sub’d UTF-16 & for the UTF-8 glyph.)

    You can fix it up with post-processing, needless to say, but you have to notice the HTML escape sequences first.

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  93. 93
    Steeplejack says:

    @Dev Null:

    Hey, I’m just a simple caveman programmer, and I try to go with the simplest solution for the context. HTML examples on Balloon Juice, &-stuff it is!

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  94. 94
    Dev Null says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I’m just a simple caveman programmer

    Hey, I write C … and I script with awk, grep, sed, and heritage sh (Bourne shell – none of this new-fangled Bourne-again shell heresy for me! Had the programming gods intended arithmetic to be done in the shell, the Bourne shell would have supported arithmetic operations! (er, /snark))

    Can’t get much more caveman than that. :-)

    As for “simplest solution”, sure, why not? Although UTF-16 is simple too. I keep a text file with the 0xFFhh unicode glyphs in my home directory, which covers most (all?) of the ASCII character set.

    I mentioned the grc password generator mostly because I hadn’t realized until this discussion that – whether you use HTML escapes or UTF look-alike glyph substitution – the value of a token in a scraped web page need not be what you see when you look at the web page. Quite the surprise.

    Admittedly, no one will ever scrape a Balloon Juice web page to get a value (I think) … but it is entirely plausible to script access to a web-based password generator.

    Just as surprising, neither wget nor curl seem to provide an option to translate HTML escape sequences to ASCII.

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