“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Phone Booths Pass Into History

Looking for change; finding a phone that works; waiting or having a snarling face waiting for you, will all be a thing of the past. In this case, it is real progress. Phone booths will not be missed.

AT&T to quit the pay-phone business
By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch
Last update: 3:34 p.m. EST Dec. 3, 2007

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- AT&T Inc., the nation's largest phone carrier, said Monday that it is getting out of the 129-year-old pay-phone business.
In a country full of BlackBerrys, cell phones and iPhones, it's really not surprising. Most Americans, whether rich or poor, now have wireless handsets, and pay phones have become increasingly scarce.
AT& T said that its pay phones will be phased out over the next year. A company spokeswoman declined to say how much revenue its pay-phone business generated, but the number is small and declining.
Although AT&T is exiting the pay-phone market, not every major phone company has done so. Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:43.09, -0.12, -0.3%) still operates them in the Northeast, particularly in busy urban markets such as New York and Boston.
The first public pay-telephone station was set up in 1878, just two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the talking device. The first coin-operated pay phone was installed in Hartford, Conn., in 1889.

For decades after the pay phone's invention, many Americans relied on them because of the expense and difficulty in obtaining reliable home service. Only after World War II did the telephone become a household necessity.

Pay phones even found a place in popular culture. For example, Clark Kent, the alter ego of comic-book hero Superman, often changed in phone booths. Older movies often featured reporters rushing into such booths to report breaking stories.
Perhaps the oddest moment came in the late 1950s, when American colleges embraced an international fad to see how many people could be crammed into a booth. (The record is 25, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.)

Since 1998, however, the number of pay phones in service has shrunk from 2.6 million to about 1 million, according to AT&T (T:38.28, +0.07, +0.2%) . The main reason has been the proliferation of cellular phones, which were invented in the 1970s.

By late 2007, there were almost 251 million wireless customers nationwide among a U.S. population of 301 million, the CTIA industry trade group estimates. AT&T alone caters to almost 66 million mobile subscribers.

By contrast, AT&T operates just 65,000 pay phones in the 13 states formerly served by the local-phone company SBC Communications, which acquired the old Ma Bell in 2005 and then took its name.

AT&T said that it will continue to sell wholesale pay-phone service to independent operators, and it expects them to pick up some of its business.

Jeffry Bartash is a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington.


  1. Have not used the pay phones, since they went to a quarter.

    Just against the scheme of things, to pay a quarter for a ten cent call.

  2. And along with phone booths, the Iranian nuclear weapons program, passing into history...

    US downgrades Iran�s nuclear threat
    By By Daniel Dombey in Washington and Stephen Fidler and James Blitz in London

    Published: December 3 2007 18:42 | Last updated: December 3 2007 20:42

    US intelligence has downgraded its assessment of the risks posed by Iran�s nuclear ambitions with a surprise declaration on Monday that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 and may not have restarted it.

    The conclusion undermines arguments for prompt US military action against Iran to stop its nuclear programme and provides support for intensifying international diplomatic and economic pressures on Tehran.

    A new National Intelligence Estimate, released on Monday, distils the views of relevant US intelligence agencies and provides the most comprehensive and nuanced unclassified picture ever presented of how they view Iran�s nuclear intentions and capabilities.

    It says Tehran halted its weapons programme four years ago �primarily in response to international pressure� and suggests Tehran�s decisions �are guided by a cost benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs�.

    Not as "crazy" as the Iranians would like to appear.

    The US government speaks, we have the responsibility to listen, no?

  3. 'Rat and I are shocked, SHOCKED,
    having been convinced by thousands of comments to the effect that GWB would not leave office without first "dealing with" Iraq in one way or another, from special forces raids to tactical nukes.

    In addition to all those comments were many conservative expert opinion-makers that came to the same conclusion.

    Blindsided by Reality.
    (or conveniently concocted "reality" as in the "inactive" NORK Nuke Program)
    ...just don't tell John Bolton!

  4. Too bad it's not a Slam Dunk Certainty.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Now if those intelligence experts could just figure out a way to make the Paki Nukes Go Away!
    ...hell, might as well eliminate bin, the doc, and the Taliban, as well.
    One can hope.

  7. Just need a little bold thinking to wrap things up:
    Brother D-Day said...

    "Sure thing. We can snatch the Pak nukes in a simultaneous attack on the Iranian nuke facilities.

    Hell, why don't we throw in a snatch 'n' grab operation to get the mullahs, Kim Jong Il, Putin and the Chinese government while we're at it.
    Heck, bro:
    With rhetoric like that, you could become a BC Regular Poster!

  8. So the POTUS should heed the words of the NIE and Iran is not a threat?

    What say the lords of the bar?

  9. elijah,

    I gotta say, I'm one of the first ones to treat the pronouncements coming forth from out "intelligence" with scepticism but given that war should be undertaken only as a last resort the doubt should not lead one to attack.

  10. Whether this is good intel or not, it is now politically impossible for Bush-Cheney to initiate the use of force in Iran. Ahmedinejad will need to strike first.

  11. The Gates Keeper, an interesting piece on the SecDef.

    From Newsweak, it tells the tale of members of Team41, like the cavalry, arriving just in time to rescue the Republic from the mismanagement of fear.

  12. Mr Gates, he may not know where the bodies are buried, but he knows how the funiture used to be arranged, in the halls of power.

  13. That's a good article DR. I love the part about how the Pentagon chiefs viewed Gates as the calvary, simply because he wasn't Rumsfeld.

  14. This phone booth fad predated my birth by a few years.

    It seems to me they could have had a distinct advantage in maximizing the number of people stuffed in the phone booth by going boy-girl-boy-girl.

  15. Well, let's see doug, those self-same "ragheads", thirty-five thousand of 'em, fought 171,000 of US to a draw.

    They may not rule all of Iraq, but they rule their area of it. Still.

    They win, we lose. The Tribes remain an integral part of Iraq. Not on the trash heap of history, the US goal in 2003, but large and in charge in Anbar.

    The US, though, we just shifts gears, claim the defeat a success, verging upon victory, knowing that the market has no memory.

    Let's move on. Nothing left to see, there.

    The Iranians seem to have abandoned their bomb program, the Pakis, not.

    Some though will still advocate for war with Iran, just 'cause they think we can.
    Not very Christian thinking

  16. If you thought the GOP was having trouble, check out Robert Reich's comments, Obama vs Clinton.

    Then the comments on his comments. Does not take many to see the challenges they are having.

  17. We're leaving Iraq just as soon as we can...hostilities with Iran do not expedite the departure. Besides, someone finally figured out that, "Okay so we bomb their nuclear facilities, then what.?" It's not as if that's the end of it. They don't just roll over and play dead. They cause pure hell in Iraq. We can't sustain what we've got much less open a new front on our rear...

    Hostilities with left to the next President.

  18. "The same intelligence that warned of Saddam Hussein's non-conventional arsenal is now making the opposite, deadly error in relation to Iran. The Americans will find themselves surprised like they did when they learned of the Indian and Pakistani bombs."


  19. 1
    "the doubt should not lead one to attack"

    "it is now politically impossible for Bush-Cheney to initiate the use of force in Iran"

    So...if the NIE reported the opposite concerning Iran, what course for the U.S.?

    "thirty-five thousand of 'em"

    How does one count combatants if they do not wear uniforms?

    How does one quantify citizen soldiers?

    "arriving just in time to rescue the Republic from the mismanagement of fear."

    "I don't think the president misled the American people. I think intelligence misled the president,"
    - Robert Gates, March 2005, at Texas A&M

    "The US government speaks, we have the responsibility to listen, no?"

    Yes or no?

  20. Surprised, doubt it, but what of it, if we are. The Iranians can barely reach Israel with their rockets. Fall short of the Bosphorus, let alone the US of A.

    Same with the Pakistani, so what if they have a nuclear device or one hundred. They can't hit US with it, either.

    Track 'em on the ground, from space, we can. elijah told us so, it seems that the terrorist angle is over played, for rhetorical flourish and hype, if his report was accurate.

    Play the fear card, Mr Rove swears by it. But to what end, 28 years of Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton?

    Sounds like the annals of Rome, post-Republic, to me.

  21. "Track 'em on the ground, from space, we can. elijah told us so, it seems that the terrorist angle is over played, for rhetorical flourish and hype, if his report was accurate."

    Are your words your currency?

    If so, is a statement the same as a question?

  22. Either one, elijah. Yes or no.
    Each citizen gets to decide for themselves, not be told by others what to think.

    The US has been operating under an '05 report that the Iranians WERE moving ahead with a weapons program.

    It was unacceptable if they were.
    But not much can be done. Whether they are, or not.

    Yes, combatants can be counted if they do not wear uniforms, the numbers come from that organization that rufus liked so much. Brookings, I think, and the US Army, too.

    Or there'd have been no enemies to fight, if it is the uniform that makes one a combatant, not the weapon in hand.

    Interesting that when coalition forces stopped their offensive actions, in Anbar and Basra, the Insurgency died.

    Kinda telling, aye

  23. Statements are often questions, when the truth is an unknowable.

    But if the technologies can track the bombs, then the terrorists could not transport one in a frieghter.
    So, without ICBM capacity, the Iranian or Paki bomb is without an adequate delivery system, to threaten US.

    They're a suicide threat, to be sure.

  24. DR: The Iranians can barely reach Israel with their rockets.

    The Norks can reach Seoul with their howitzers too. Seems to me the best way to keep both from happening is to leave them the hell alone.

  25. I posted the entire Iranian Nuclear Report on the next post