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Netflix’s day: Sony pulls movies, new bandwidth options, no more DVD API access and a lawsuit

In an apparent ode to Rebecca Black, Ice Cube and any number of body switch movies, Netflix has had an incredibly active Friday, so sit back while we get you up to speed. Sony Pictures movies from Starz Play are no longer available (on any device, not just the Xbox 360 this time) due to a "temporary contract issue" according to the official blog. According to NewTeeVee, the problem is an "IP distribution cap" that was reached due to Netflix's explosive growth, but with no word on when the movies will be back, you'll be missing The Other Guys. Up next was the National Association of the Deaf, which has filed a lawsuit in Springfield, MA against Netflix, claiming that its failure to provide closed captions on all streaming content puts it in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Netflix last claimed 30 percent of titles were subbed with plans to reach 80 percent by the end of the year, but the press release (and captioned YouTube video) make the case that as a leader in streaming video, it should do better.

Netflix also quietly gave US subscribers access to the same bandwidth management options provided to Canadians a few months ago. The new Manage Video Quality settings (shown above) can be found in the Your Account section, and if you're trying to stay under bandwidth caps or just keep seeing buffering, they should help you out at the cost of a few pixels. As if that wasn't enough, the Netflix Tech Blog squeezed in news that it was ending access to "DVD-related features" for apps using its Open API later this year. The move is apparently preparation for expanded international streaming, so if you're trying to manage discs through a third party things may change soon.

Netflix's day: Sony pulls movies, new bandwidth options, no more DVD API access and a lawsuit originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 17 Jun 2011 23:29:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Arnold Achieves ‘Post Partisanship’ With Uniform Disapproval In New Poll

The quote of the week goes to Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which is just out with a poll that shows Arnold Schwarzenegger with a 75% disapproval rating among voters and with 90% of Los Angeles residents rejecting him.
The quote of the week goes to Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which is just out with a poll that shows Arnold Schwarzenegger with a 75% disapproval rating among voters and with 90% of Los Angeles residents rejecting him.

DiCamillo told the San Francisco Chronicle:  "He was going to be a ... politician who really appealed to independent voters and who would reach across party lines," DiCamillo said. The new poll shows that Schwarzenegger has "achieved the 'post-partisan' status."

Republicans, Democrats, independents, Californians of all walks of life curse their former Governor. What's made Arnold's reign so disappointing is not that he betrayed his wife, but that he betrayed voters and their hopes.

Consumer Watchdog launched on Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial inauguration day because we knew his talk about cleaning up Sacramento was phony.  At the time Schwarzenegger had a 65% plus approval rating.  We launched the blog to hold California's new governor accountable to his pledge to clean up special-interest control in Sacramento and to chart the influence of big business over his administration.  By 2005 Californians came to learn the Gov did not live up to his word when they rejected a slate of reactionary ballot measures he proposed.  When Schwarzenegger left office in 2010, before the news of love child scandal, his approval rating was only 27%, tied with Governor Gray Davis at the moment of his recall.

What ruined Arnold wasn't his infidelity to his family, but to his state.  The blogs at Arnold Watch stand as a reminder of the need to be ever vigilant in holding our politicians accountable.  The special interests he bedded while in the governor's suite spawned some of the uglier moments of California governance.  Sometimes we stopped him, sometimes we shamed him, other times Schwarzenegger's donors won more than they should have.  When Arnold was hurting, he was forced to take huge steps forward to rehabilitate his image -- an increase in the minimum wage, a greenhouse gas emissions cap, support for gay marriage.

What matters to voters in the end, though, isn't these strides forward for progress or the master marketer's cosmetic remakes of himself.  The voter's final verdict was cast about his character.

Other politicians across America would do well to learn the lesson that, in the end, reputation and trust are all that truly matter. Every vote, every decision should be based not on the power of the interest group of the moment, or the political winds of an insular world, but on what's right and wrong for history and a public official's place in it.  Until politicians are ready for that truth, Consumer Watchdog will be here to remind them of it.


Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.


The new American dream, Perry-style

Joshua Holland has a great piece up today about Rick Perry's "Texas Miracle." Read the whole thing for the details about why the Federal stimulus saved him even as he demonized it and how the only reason they've "created" more jobs is because they've had a huge influx low wage labor from Latin America that needs to buy toothpaste and milk from somebody. But this conclusion tells the tale:

At a fundraiser this week, Rick Perry, who despite toying with the idea of secession in the past may now be eying a White House bid, told a group of Republican fat-cats that in his state, “you don't have to use your imagination, saying, 'What'll happen if we apply this or that conservative principle?' You just need to look around, because they've been in play across our state for years, generating real results.”

In this, Perry is absolutely, 100 percent correct. He slashed taxes to the bone, handing out credits to his political cronies like they were candy. He decried the evils of Big Government while hypocritically using federal stimulus funds to help close Texas' budget gap in the short term, and now he's using the state's longer term fiscal disaster – one of his own creation – as a premise for destroying an already threadbare social safety net serving the neediest Texans. As a result of these policies, plus immigration and other external factors, his state's added a lot of low-paying poverty jobs without decent benefits. He's added very little in the way of “prosperity.”

But that truly is a big success in GOP terms. The thing to remember is that they have managed to crate most new jobs at the minimum wage level while seeing their wealthiest "producers" make tons of money (on which they pay nothing in taxes.)That's their version of the American dream.


The “outside the deficit” scam

Dday caught up with some big Dems at Netroots Nation and got them on the record about this AARP cave in. Wasserman-Shultz said that cuts are "off the table" (at least until the Republicans agree to raise revenues ...)

But this struck me as the root of the current controversy:

Sen. Mark Begich also commented on this. He showed me on his Blackberry the clarification statement from the AARP. “We’re clear, as Senate Democrats, that it’s not part of the deficit discussion,” he said. “It’s a mathematical issue, and we can resolve that. But it’s not a part of the deficit.”

He's using the financial industry talking point "it's a math problem" which refers to the trope that suddenly we've found out that there aren't enough workers to support retirees. (This is not true --- the ratio has been more or less the same for about 30 years.) But that's just rote rhetoric. It's the other part of it that's a trap.

What I'm hearing in this from AARP and Begich and people like Kay Bailey Hutchison (who "coincidentally" dropped her Social Security destruciton plan yesterday) is that they've got some kind of agreement to "tackle" Social Security outside the deficit talks around the debt ceiling and the budget. It's a very neat and tidy compartment of the Grand Bargain. Here's Hutchison on the AARP's statement:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who on Thursday unveiled her own Social Security reform package, said Friday that the AARP has marked "a huge shift in the debate on the solvency of Social Security."

Ms. Hutchison went on to say that her hope is “that Social Security is included in the bipartisan discussions on raising the debt ceiling, as it is an opportunity to fix this important entitlement for seventy-five years rather than just focusing on a short-term Band-Aid.”

Hutchison, who is retiring, is the designated Social Security extremist in this battle. Her plan would raise the retirement age to 69 for everyone under the current age of 58. As you can see, she's also demanding that Social Security be part of any deficit talks for no apparent reason, just as the Democrats are all firmly insisting that they will have none of it. (As if that's the issue ...) I think we can all see the outlines of the agreement here, can't we?

So we're looking at cuts to Social Security and eventually many rationales as to why they are "the best they could do." On the Democratic side, we'll be told that an agreement to only discuss Social Security outside the deficit discussions was a big win for the good guys. Why something that doesn't affect the deficit and is solvent so far in the future should even be on the agenda at a time of crippling unemployment and a moribund economy remains a mystery.

The truth, of course, is that the deficit is beside the point in all these discussions. The Grand Bargain was conceived long before it was a major issue. These talks are really about changing the nature of American government --- which apparently will be accomplished by cutting social programs and the safety net.


Why you can’t ever “know” anything exactly [Starts With A Bang]

"What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." -Werner Heisenberg
Looking down at the fundamental nature of matter, down past our cells and organelles, deep into the individual molecules and inside of the atoms that make them up, at long last, you get to things like the fundamental particles that make up all the known matter in the Universe.


Things like electrons, photons, and the quarks that make up protons and neutrons, are all, as best as we can tell, fundamental particles. That means we can't break them up into anything smaller; they're not "made" of anything else.

And that's where things get weird.

Let's say I take some light -- what particle physicists call photons -- and I shine it through some slits. Two slits of finite width, two infinitely-thin slits, and one slit of a finite width. What type of pattern would I see?


(Image credit: Benjamin Crowell.)

Well, you'd see the classic patterns that come about because of two well-known and well-understood phenomena: interference and diffraction. Now it might seem weird to you, because these are properties of waves, but we can treat light like a wave without too much difficulty.

On the other hand, if we used something like electrons, you might expect a different result.


This is the result you'd get if you threw a bunch of tiny grains of sand at these two slits. Some grains go through one slit, some grains go through the other, and you wind up with two separate piles of sand on the other side.

So what happens when you send the electrons through? They make the interference pattern!

But we're clever, so what we do, to avoid the electrons from interfering with one another, is to send them through one-at-a-time. And over time, we count up what they're doing. Here are the results.


Unbelievably, each individual electron appears to interfere with itself!

So you go back and ask which slit each electron went through, like a good scientist would. So when you re-run the experiment, only this time you turn on a light to measure which slit the electron goes through, what do you find?


When you measure the electron, you destroy the interference pattern, and you force it to go through one slit or the other! It no longer interferes with itself, it no longer acts like a wave, and you just get the same pattern that you get for particles of sand.

The way you were likely taught this -- if you were taught this at all -- is that measuring the electron "collapses its wavefunction." And this is right... kind of.

Here's an -- as far as we know -- accurate depiction of what a helium atom looks like.


Now you might want to know where this electron is at any given instant. So you can shoot a photon at it. And the higher energy (i.e., shorter-wavelength) your photon is, the more accurately you can measure the electron's position. But you can never know it exactly. Why not?


(Image credit: UCSD.)

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle! Not only can you never know something like "position" exactly, but the more accurately you measure its position, the less accurately you're allowed to know its momentum!

The same thing happens for energy and time. This is so spectacular that -- because E = mc2 -- particles that live for very, very small amounts of time have an inherent uncertainty in their mass! (If you ever hear a physicist talk about the "width" of a particle like the W or Z boson, or the top quark, this mass-uncertainty is what they're referring to.)

Is there a good, classical analogy for this? Sure there is; imagine a water balloon.


Imagine trying to measure exactly where the water balloon is in one direction. Well, you can't quite do it with just a ruler; a water balloon has a finite thickness to it. So what can you do? Well, you can squeeze it in one direction, and make it smaller.


But when you do this, it stretches in the other directions. The volume has to be conserved, or all the dimensions multiplied together cannot be less than a certain number.

That's what quantum mechanics is like. So you might wonder, with this in mind, what happens if you go back to your two-slit experiment, and only measure which slit the particles travel through a little bit?


(Image credit: S. Kocsis et al.)

Well, this experiment was just done (and other writeups are here and here), and what they can do is measure the average trajectory of the particles, but without destroying the interference pattern! In other words, if you look with low enough precision at whatever you're looking at, you allow the balloon to be "large enough," in some sense, in the direction that's important to the experiment.

But as far as nature goes? You never know either position, momentum, energy, or time exactly. The best you can do is to measure it well-enough to take away some of its options. The first double slit experiment was performed in 1799, and with new discoveries and measurements like this, we're likely to keep on playing with this setup for centuries to come.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Rumbles under the Ice [Dynamics of Cats]

Katla is rumbling a bit.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


LG Revolution review

The army of high-speed broadband phones is actively seeking new recruits to join its rapidly-growing force, and the LG Revolution is the latest to graduate from boot camp. We've witnessed the emergence of three Verizon LTE handsets in as many months, beginning with the HTC Thunderbolt and the Samsung Droid Charge a few weeks later. As if this wasn't enough choice to tempt your tastebuds already, the LG Revolution -- the entertaining climax to the classic 4G trilogy -- was born one full moon after that. With three options, all so close to each other in dimension and features, it's natural to compare all of 'em and make the call on which one is the best of the bunch. Is LG's first crack at Verizon's LTE network truly a game-changer, as its name suggests? Or does this Revolution fail to even get its feet off the ground? Read on after the break to find out.

Continue reading LG Revolution review

LG Revolution review originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 17 Jun 2011 16:54:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The temptation of McKinsey

Greg Sargent has been closely following this emerging scandal over the McKinsey study I wrote about here. I was as credulous as anyone, and not just because McKinsey studies are often cited and I had no reason to doubt it. But it was also because it tracked with my gut feeling about what will happen when the system changes so that employers can opt out of offering health coverage. Obviously it's always tempting to jump on something that validates your gut feelings, but in this case it is becoming clear that there's something drastically wrong with the study and any credence I put into it must be withdrawn.

Having said that, I still think this is a weakness in the plan, regardless of what employers say now about what they plan to do in the future. It's only logical that if they feel there is an alternative to paying for or even administering this benefit many of them will take it. (I've dealt with human resources departments over the years and one thing that's patently obvious is that they fall on the "expense" side of the ledger.) Therefore, if the job market and rules of the road allow, I doubt very much that those who can opt out won't see it as a viable alternative. This won't be a problem if workers are compensated for the price of a comparable policy in the exchanges. But if they aren't this would end up being a net loss for working people.

I'm hopeful that won't happen. (It's possible that I misunderstand the various mechanisms that make it even feasible.) But it's always been something that seemed a little bit "off" about the ACA's promise that "nothing would change" if you already have insurance. However, what seems to be even more "off" is McKinsey's study, so that certainly doesn't offer any validation of those concerns and anyone citing it at this point is basically citing bullshit.


Getting what they wanted all along

Ezra's well connected to this debate so I'm assuming he knows what he's talking about:
Michael Gerson describes what top Republicans are saying will be in the final budget deal
A package of immediate and specific budget cuts; budget caps reaching out five years to reassure conservatives that tough budget decisions will be made in the future; Medicare reforms short of the House approach; no tax increases — a Republican red line — but perhaps additional revenue from the elimination of tax expenditures.

I’m hearing mostly the same thing. The debt-ceiling deal looks like it’ll be almost entirely composed of cuts and caps. Whatever revenues are in it will be token contributions, at best. There won’t be structural reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and there won’t be a pass at tax reform. The budget caps will make automatic cuts to spending if we’re not on a path to primary balance by 2014. The big question with the cap is whether it just makes automatic cuts to spending or it also raises taxes. It’s not obvious to me why the Democrats would fold on that last point, but they might.

What this means is that Democrats and Republicans have agreed that the “grand bargain” isn’t spending cuts for tax revenues, but entitlement reforms for tax revenues.

Excellent. Except we have no idea what those tax revenues are except for some symbolic cuts of a few easy corporate subsidies. But I guess the idea is that if the Democrats put "entitlements" on the menu then surely the GOP will meet them halfway. What could go wrong?

Knowing as we do that the outcome of the debt limit "fight" was pre-ordained (they were always going to raise it) what this really means is that the Democrats wanted to make the parameters of the 2012 budget fight around entitlement cuts and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled. And apparently they want to be forced to cut spending radically in the second term. In other words, a big win for the austerity fetishists. I hope the confidence fairy is duly impressed.

As for the politics, I'd guess the Democrats think this will "take deficit reduction off the table" so they can start talking about #winningthefuture, but I think that may be just a little bit delusional. After all, the Republican electoral argument is that deficit reduction is the key to growth and jobs. They aren't going to let it go, especially since they now know how to play it.

Obama will say that he's shown great leadership by being willing to rein in spending and will run on allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as the Democratic "win" in the Grand Bargain --- but only if he's re-elected. The Republicans will say that Obama's profligate spending has exacerbated the unemployment crisis and that raising taxes when the economy is sputtering will make things even worse. Who knows what people will believe? I suspect they'll see Obama as the better bet. That's the beauty of having the opposing party be batshit insane.

So, whichever jersey you wear, and whatever problems you have with the policies, you'll be told to clap louder --- to drown out the sound of the plutocrats' laughter.


Professional Left Podcast #78

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
-- Saint Augustine
On the road with the Professional Left.

Pictured above is Blue Gal editing the component parts of the podcast you are listening to into a confection that pleased our ears (her PC with all of her magic tricks took a hit before we arrived here, so we are making-do with a hand-held tape recorder and the software she downloaded onto my ancient...Old Timey... vintage machine.)

Pictured also are my giant feet nude body parts. Please feel free to tweet the hell out of them. With any luck, the Democratic Party will ask me politely to leave grin

Having fun and meeting fellow travelers.

More later.


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