Minnesota’s surveillance society (5×8 – 8/10/12)

When authorities know where you are, the predictable plane crash video, are we a melting pot or a boiling pot, Duluth watches Kansas City get the fiber diet, and if you want to slim down be a hunter/gatherer.


Based on the reaction to other stories where personal privacy is erased by authorities’ access to data, the reaction to today’s Star Tribune story that cops are collecting information on your location throughout the day is bound to be either outrage or a matter of “if you haven’t done anything wrong, what’s the problem?”

The newspaper reports that more police departments are using cameras and equipment that automatically scan license plates and record time and location. The cameras can locate stolen cars, for example.

One problem may be that the police can share the information with others who ask. The Star Tribune reporter asked for his own car’s data and got quite a list.

Another problem may be that more than just cops are using the technology…

It’s called Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR). A white paper on the cameras by the company that sells them dismisses privacy concerns by noting people don’t own the license plates on their cars — the state does.


A lot of people have been sending me links to this video of a plane crash, filmed from the inside of the plane that occurred recently in the high country of Idaho.

When a plane crashes, it’s rarely the plane’s fault; it’s just doing what the laws of physics tell it to do. The pilot is usually the culprit and so it is in this case, too.

Most of the news stories have said the plane hit “an air pocket” and then crashed. That’s not what happened.

Pilots are required to calculate the weight and distribution of the weight in any aircraft before they fly, and cross check the results with the temperature and barometric pressure and other factors, including the condition of the runway. A plane that might be able to fly in the cool weather of the morning, might not make it in the heat of midday. This is especially true at high altitudes where the air is already less dense and less capable of lifting a plane into the air.

The :14 mark of the film reveals another culprit…


That red knob is the fuel mixture, which helps regulate the ratio of air to fuel in the carburetor. On a normal takeoff, the knob is fully in, as is the case here. But in high country, and in hot conditions, the engine requires less fuel in the mixture, not more. This configuration would’ve robbed the engine of some power, likely enough to guarantee the plane wouldn’t fly.

And finally, the pilot didn’t listen to what the plane was telling him. After 20 seconds of the takeoff roll, it was clear the airplane was struggling to get off the ground. He didn’t listen. He didn’t listen after 30 seconds. Or one minute. Or two minutes.

From subsequent news reports, it’s clear the pilot had plenty of experience in the air, which reveals another truism: No matter how smart we are, sometimes we do stupid things.

On the TV news shows, the survivors said it was a miracle that no one was killed. There was nothing about the incident that comes close to miracle. It’s considered bad form for pilots to criticize other pilots, but there’s no reason in this story for any claim of superior airmanship worth admiration.


Good question. It’s one that’s tackled in a new documentary — Shenandoah — that analyzes the killing of an immigrant in the Pennsylvania coal town, by four local football players.


The New York Times Lens blog reviews the film today in terms that may sound starkly familiar:

Old-timers looking out on deserted streets describe a lost world where everyone had work and knew one another’s families. Now, the coal mines are closed, unemployment is high and some neighbors speak only Spanish.

The conditions may be ripe for resentment, but it is especially striking to see the tension in Shenandoah, which celebrates the generations of European immigrants that made the town vibrant.

Mr. Turnley is a photographer’s photographer: “Once you’ve done what we do, it becomes your identity, and it’s in our blood,” he says. The movie is filled with the stuff of dramatic photographs: the empty trays of a too-quiet doughnut store; the trophies and jerseys decorating a childhood bedroom. But filmmaking has allowed him to add another layer to his work.

The hate is still obvious on the film’s Facebook page.


Remember when Duluth was in the running to be the test city for Google Fiber? The city, which was considered the frontrunner, lost out to Kansas City. Google has now started trying to sign people up for the fiber network it’s constructing.

It should’ve been you, Duluth.


The world is getting fatter, and a sedentary, calorific Western lifestyle is the culprit, since it is believed to be at odds with the genetic legacy of modern humans’ hunter-gatherer ancestors, LiveScience.com writes today. So, how does this Western lifestyle really stack up against that of hunter-gatherers? Not the way you probably think.

Bonus I: When an engagement is broken, does the bride have a legal duty to return the engagement ring to the groom? (The Volokh Conspiracy)

Bonus II: Good dog. Really, what more is there to say?


The 2012 Summer Olympics wraps up this weekend. Today’s Question: What ‘s been your favorite moment of the London Olympics? What was your least favorite moment?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable discussion: congressional primary races in Minnesota and other states, and what those races indicate for the fall elections?

Second hour: Financial advice with Ruth Haydn.

Third hour: Mars Rover and other science news.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Former Atlanta mayor and ambassador Andrew Young, in a Chautauqua Lecture he titled, “I Dream A World That Works.”

Science Friday(1-2 p.m.) – A physics schmooze on dark matter, the

Higgs and the multiverse, with cosmologists Michael Turner and Lisa Randall.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Spanish and English often merge into “Spanglish.” And Spanglish is now officially recognized by Spain’s Royal Spanish Academy. That took some arm-twisting. Even with the recognition, controversy lingers. NPR reports on a bridge and a divide between languages.