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I love my Treo.  And even though I know I only want it because it's cool, I'm dying for an iPhone.  But in this great article on the Movement Vision Lab blog, two grassroots activists push us to examine the social, economic and political context behind cell phones...

This piecereally made me think.

Colby Lenz and Dean Spade from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project argued that cell phones have lots of problematic consequences.

Cell phones are just a new consumer luxury item masquerading as a need.  A little over a decade ago we all lived life without them.  We survived flat tires, street protests, non-profit jobs, family illness and our social lives without Blackberries and Razrs.  Cell phones represent a new level of privatization of phone service.  Along with other ways we have punished the poor, pay phones are now on the decline, making access to phones more difficult for people without cash or credit.  We have moved from sharing phones (party-lines), to household lines, to individual lines. This means more money for big business.  What does it mean that so many people committed to a more socialized politics are giving so much money to the telecommunications industry?  What else might we do with that money if we let go of these private status symbols and shared phones like we used to?

True.  Like I said, I only want the iPhone because it's cool and, by extension, transfers some of its cool onto me...

If everyone else held a piece of plastic filled with cancer-causing chips next to their head all day long would you?  Our friends who use cell phones tell us their ears hurt.  Studies worldwide suggest cell phones are linked to brain cancer, research that the phone industry works its magic to quiet or stop.  We know very well that we cannot trust big business with our health and the health of our loved ones.  What’s convenient now might be very painful later.  We want you to live and be well.

I have worried about those Bluetooth things and whether we're all going to have ear cancer in a few years...

Cell phones don’t grow on trees.  They are made of plastic, are “disposable” (meaning made to break and be lost) and millions of them are thrown into landfills every week.  Coltan, a key material that makes them work, is mined in the Congo under horrendous conditions, resulting in an estimated 3.2 million deaths since 1998, deforestation of the region and birth defects from water contamination.  Like all other consumer goods, the people who use and enjoy this luxury are mostly clueless about the extreme exploitation and violence required to create them.

This is really, really bad.  Yet another disposible product, this one made from Coltan which might as well make them called "blood phones".  Really awful mining practices and devastation.

Bees are the key to our food and our survival.  Recent studies found that commercial bee populations suddenly declined 60-70% in the US and scientists theorize cell phone signals as a very possible cause.  Scientists have proven that power lines can affect bee behavior and destroy hives and the sudden increase in hive death from cell phone signals may seriously endanger plant life and food sources for bees. While mass-produced crops like wheat and corn are pollinated by wind, some 90 cultivated flowering crops rely mostly on honeybees. According to a Cornell University study, honeybees pollinate every third bite of food ingested by Americans.

Something like one out of every four bites of our food is thanks to bees and all the bees are dying, possibly thanks to cell phones.  So soon we'll all be very cool --- and very, very thin...

Cell phones are recording devices used to criminalize people.  Buying and using cell phones supports surveillance culture and promotes state violence.  Not only can every one of your conversations (whether your phone is next to your ear or off in your bag) be heard and recorded by the telecommunications industry and the state, it can also be used as evidence against you and anyone you speak to. And even if you personally are not targeted, your cell phone dollars support policing, surveillance and imprisonment of criminalized classes of poor people and people of color.

I honestly never thought about this great point before.  Anyone seen a payphone lately?  That works?  If we all need expensive phones to participate in discourse in society, then what happens to those who can't afford them?  Are they even further cut off?

Scarcity and insecurity starts at home.  The emotional economy of cell phones also concerns us.  Capitalism makes us feel insecure and competitive for seemingly scarce resources.   The same drive to consumerism and buying cell phones is the same emotional context of fear that drives war.  This national-personal insecurity matrix is visible when people buy cell phones because they’re afraid of getting in an accident or being a crime victim and needing to reach the police.  It is visible when people feel they have to have a cell phone for their job, to feel professionally important.  It is visible when people fear that if they don’t have one, then their friends will stop calling them and they will be disconnected from social life.  It feeds capitalist imperatives: every desire must be met immediately and we must always be working and striving and climbing (socially, professionally, etc.) without rest.  The mindset of the cell phone is part of our brutal economy.

And a last, final, great point!  We buy cell phones to mask our insecurity with consumer goods, rather than confronting and resolving that insecurity.  Instead, that insecurity still festers and is exploited by politicians who are telling us to fear Iran more than the lack of Social Security.  Insecurity begets insecurity.  And shallow consumer goods are a link in the chain.

Okay, so I might not ditch my cell phone tomorrow.  But the piece did give me pause.  And a lot to think about.  I've thought of calling my friends to discuss this but I have to find a pay phone first...

Sally Kohn is the Director of the Movement Vision Lab.

Originally posted to sallykohn on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 03:44 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I started reading, ready to dismiss the points (14+ / 0-)

    being made - until I hit the one about the mining.  Learned a few new facts the MSM has certainly not been bringing to our attention.  (And BTW, I wasn't going to dismiss the points because I'm a big cell phone fan; I still hate the things, resisted getting one until forced to Because there are no longer any pay phones anywhere, and still generally have it turned off or a dead battery at least half the time.  At least that way, no one ever bothers calling me on it, since they know I won't answer, so I can keep it just for those critical calls I have to make when I'm out and about.)

  •  Interesting Diary (8+ / 0-)

    It is a luxury masquerading as a "necessity".

    The first time I bought a cell phone for my son, it was because he managed to get lost in seventh grade after school.

    That was when I convinced myself it was necessary.

    Now, I can see I could have taught him better ways to communicate.

    "People should not be afraid of their government; governments should be afraid of their people." --V

    by MikeTheLiberal on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 03:58:45 PM PST

  •  Never had one and don't want one. (11+ / 0-)

    Lifes more exciting without one.

    "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

    by Owllwoman on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 03:58:51 PM PST

  •  Virus, not cell phones, appear to trouble bees (14+ / 0-)

    A virus has emerged as a strong suspect in the hunt for the mystery disease killing off North American honeybees.

    Genetic research showed that Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) turned up regularly in hives affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

    A bit of the backstory:

    The honeybee decline can be traced back at least 20 years, and the introduction of the parasitic varroa mite is one of the principal causes.

    But in 2004, beekeepers began seeing and reporting a new and serious phenomenon, in which entire colonies would desert their hives, leaving behind their brood and stocks of food - a syndrome that was later labelled Colony Collapse Disorder.

    Theories on what is causing it have ranged from mobile phone radiation to pesticides, from genetically modified crops to climate change.

  •  Dick Tracey had a CellPhone, and Dick is Cool (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    P.S., Payphones aren't going away anytime soon. Payphones are big business, check out FSH Communications.

    FSH Communications LLC is a premiere provider of public communications systems serving the general commercial and inmate services markets.

    That's where all us Kossarians will be calling from if Geo. Mushariff andRichard B. Cheney (suspected traitor) get their way.


    Notice: This Comment © ROGNM

    by ROGNM on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:03:54 PM PST

  •  Location tracking (5+ / 0-)

    Even with pre-GPS phones, or with GPS off, your location is tracked by the towers, tho less accurately. The history of your whereabouts is retained by the telco, and mostt of the cases to date hold that no warrant is needed for law enforcement access.

    Practicing Law without a License is my 3d favorite crime.

    by ben masel on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:09:17 PM PST

  •  Now I Have A Lot Of Technology (8+ / 0-)

    But some of the stuff out there just makes no sense. I don't have an iPod (I had a Mac since 1987) cause I can just burn some CDs and put them into my six disk changer in my car. if I am at the gym I can push plug my headphones into their system. If I am on the plane I can just use my laptop.

    I don't have a cause I don't need all that shit. I must have gone to like five stores to just get a darn phone. I kept saying no I don't want to text message. No I don't want a camera. No I don't want ring tone or to be able to surf the web. I want to be able to make calls, get calls, and check my VM.

    People find out I am a "gamer" and are stunned I still have a PS2 and not the PS3 or xBox. Well knew games are still coming out for my system and I still LOVE it.

    People find out my Sony TV is close to 8 years old. Why don't you have HDTV. I admit I can tell a difference in the picture, but not so much to drop $3,500.

    Now I know I have more "toys" then most, but it is getting really out of control.

    As for your other points, I AM A FIRM BELIEVER that most high-tech equipment folks make their products, on purpose to "break" in 3-4 years (if not less) so people buy another one. I hate to think how many cell phones, computers, video game system they've gone through in the last decade.

    Heck, that first Mac I got in 1987 still WORKS. He hangs under a cabinet in my kitchen running a program called Hypercard (think note cards) that keeps all my recipes.

    We're become a pretty strange culture/country.

    Let Is not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:09:46 PM PST

    •  Design obsolescence (0+ / 0-)

      People find out my Sony TV is close to 8 years old. Why don't you have HDTV. I admit I can tell a difference in the picture, but not so much to drop $3,500.

      HDTV is coming down a lot. And it has to, because next year your Sony TV will be scrap metal, by federal law (you may or may not get a reprieve if you have cable). The traditional broadcast TV is going the way of the LP - it is getting turned off.

      As for your other points, I AM A FIRM BELIEVER that most high-tech equipment folks make their products, on purpose to "break" in 3-4 years (if not less) so people buy another one.

      You are actually correct; the technical term is design life or planned obsolescence. All technical systems (and, for that matter, most natural systems, such as the human body) have a limited lifetime. The length of the lifetime is determined by a variety of factors, but ultimately it comes down to what the design engineers choose. For cars, they usually choose around 10 years/150,000 miles. For consumer electronics, they usually indeed choose around 3 to 4 years.

      The reason is that most electronic devices depend on a lot of infrastructure that will at some point cease to exist. For instance, an old 78 record player is (mostly) obsolete today. A cassette walkman is, too. Eventually, the CD will go the same way.

      It isn't just "to make people another one". Another reason is that making such consumer electronics goods last much longer isn't worth doing. Given the choice between a $100 CD player that you know would last you a year, and a $2000 CD player that would last you 20 years, which would you buy?

      I'd buy the $100 CD player any day. Here is why:

      • If it breaks, I'm just out $100. The $2000 CD player may well require more than $100 in repairs alone over the 20 years.
      • Who knows if we are even going to use CDs 20 years from now? You can't buy LPs any more, and cassette tapes are getting rare, too.
      • Along the same lines: a cell phone (or car phone, as they were at the time) from the 1970s or 1980s wouldn't even work any more today because all the towers have been upgraded to a different radio system.
      • Spending $100 every year for 20 years is cheaper than spending $2000 up front, because of inflation (and other factors).
      • Next year's CD player will be better than this years. You say that you are playing burned CDs. If you had such a 20-year player, you'd be stuck with the original model that can only play store-bought CDs.

      Similarly, your first Mac may still work, but you probably still had to buy another computer just to connect to the Internet.

      I agree to some extent that there is far too much "toy hype" related to consumer electronics. But the planned obsolescence is actually not a fundamentally bad thing; it is a necessity. And the 3-4 year time frame is actually just about right for most types of consumer electronics.

      Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

      by sdgeek on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 07:35:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  One other factoid - (5+ / 0-)

    Polling firms generally do not call cell numbers.  Given the number of people who use cell phones exclusively, and that those people tend to be younger, whole demographic groups could be underrepresented in polls and surveys.  

    Just call their form of government Hypocracy.

    by lineatus on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:13:56 PM PST

  •  Skype (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mattman, CTLiberal

    I just recently got a new Phillips Wireless Skype phone along with a Skype-In Phone number and Skype Pro. I figure I will pay less than $200 a year for nationwide phone service.  

    Since I got it I noticed that I use my cell phone less.  Why?  Because I am switching everybody to my skype phone.  I can check messages from anywhere I get an internet connection, which is usually work.  With my Skype Phone, I can even drive around and use an unsecured wireless internet connection to use the phone.    

    Needless to say, with Skype and our increasingly connected world, I find that I use my cell phone less and less.  

    And yes that is a good thing.  

    •  Skype/iPhone (0+ / 0-)

      One 3G mobile phone network in the UK is now offering phones with a special button to allow you to make free Skype calls using their network as the VOIP carrier. The facility has been available for some time but you needed to set up special keys etc.

      The iPhone looks cool but is only 2.5G. Expect a 3G version soon with a better camera that will make the current version passe. Whisper it quietly tho but the iPod Touch has almost the same functionality and a larger drive plus no contract.

      There are some really interesting innovations in Africa  where cellphones have meant a leapfrog over wired technology. A new service is banking where you can load cash onto your phone and make payments from it and receive payments to it. Far more secure in countries where banking is almost unknown especially for the poor.

  •  90% of the blockquotes appear... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayBat, myrealname, sdgeek, MsWings be BS in the diary. That said, I wonder what other "modern miracles" are made with coltan. I have
    a cell phone: Calamity Jean insisted on it not long
    after we closed on the farm. Traveling 120 miles to
    Orangeville can be problematic if you're out-of-touch,
    and as was stated above, try and find any pay phones.
    My job would have dictated a cell phone back when I
    had a boss who had the wisdom to send people out in
    the field, but that seems to be gone for now, and I
    do NOT supply my superiors with my phone number. They
    don't pay for it, so they don't get to take advantage
    of it. It rides in my right pocket, turned off most of
    the time, and the most use it gets is when I call
    Calamity Jean to let her know I'm running late on the
    way home from work.

    iPhone? You couldn't give me one with free premium
    service for my lifetime. I don't need all that crap!

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

    by JeffW on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:18:45 PM PST

    •  modern "miracles" with coltan? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      look inside your computer and most other high-tech devices.

      The tantalum electrolytics made with the stuff are even more common than "microchips" are. They have superior electrical properties to aluminum electrolytics.

      As for the iPhone, you're paying for the brand, the packaging, and Apple's deal with AT&T. If I needed smartphone capability, I'd get a Nokia N800 and add a plug-in mobile phone adaptor. No cell vendor lockin and since it's a Linux box, I decide what runs on it, not Apple.

      But since I do all my business from home anyway, I use a cheap, dumb low-end phone... so if I'm going down the shopping list and find myself wondering "uh, what did she mean by that?", I can call from right in front of the supermarket display instead of spending half an hour looking for a pay phone.

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 09:02:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  With the numerous potential emergencies (6+ / 0-)

    that go with having 85-year-old parents moving in with us, the numerous contractor questions that go with converting some spare space we had into an apartment for them, and having a job the keeps me "in transit" most of the time in fairly rural areas, I finally broke down and got a cell four months ago.  I get 1000 minutes per month and have yet to use more than 50.  But, all-in-all, in my situation, it's probably the right thing.  

    Actually, here in Midcoast Maine, most people have them now and I've seen almost no one use theirs frivolously.

    By the way, I'm no Luddite, but a technology consultant.  And one of the things I hate the most is technology applied inappropriately or frivolously

    That said, most of the points in the diary are pretty fair.  

    Some folks prefer a map and finding their own route. Others need someone to tell them where to go.

    by sxwarren on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:19:46 PM PST

    •  if you're only using 50 minutes a month (0+ / 0-)

      you probably should be looking at pre-paid plans where you only pay for the time you actually use, but the cards only last x-months, meaning you'll have to buy new $25 (or whatever) cards whether you use all the time or not. . . I pay about $8/month total for my own similar usage level.

      YMMV and carefully examine the terms of service before buying.

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 09:56:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just Googled coltan... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MsWings's a source for things like tantalum, which is
    used quite a bit for capacitors, which you find in
    things like, well, computers. Cell phones aren't the
    only "blood technology" we use. Maybe recycling could
    limit that: I dunno.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

    by JeffW on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:25:23 PM PST

    •  Tantalum capacitors (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BachFan, dennisl, JeffW

      are smaller and more reliable (and slightly more expensive) than similar types of capacitors, particularly in surface-mount types, which is how things are miniaturized and how most new electronics is manufactured. You'd be hard-pressed to find a category of electronic product - even medical equipment, engine controls, inverters to convert solar cell DC to AC, plus any consumer electronics - where tantalums aren't used by someone. Africa is not the only source for tantalum.

      As to recycling - it's probably virtually impossible for most tantalum capacitors for a variety of reasons, but the recycling of electronic components drives the Chinese market for counterfeit electronic components or used devices resold as new. There's an entire city near Shenzen devoted to turning electronic junk into counterfeit parts, and that's where most recycled electronics ends up right now.

      It is not possible to be alive without having an impact on the environment - William Cronon

      by badger on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:30:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  think there's a chance that CNT caps can (0+ / 0-)

        replace tantalum electrolytics as well as lithium-ion batteries?

        Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

        by alizard on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 09:51:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It would be largely (0+ / 0-)

          a matter of price given the same performance. There isn't much bias against new technologies (more the opposite), but capacitors in most applications don't actually contribute much to the performance of the product, unlike, say, faster memory or a new microprocessor that integrates several functions into a single part.

          Beyond that, I don't know much about CNT technology and what I see of elecronics nowadays tends to be more the trailing edge of tech than the leading edge. I haven't heard of anybody actually producing CNT stuff yet, but I could be wrong.

          It is not possible to be alive without having an impact on the environment - William Cronon

          by badger on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 01:19:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  actually, I think response time (0+ / 0-)

            would be faster on CNT ultracaps and for a given capacitance, the physical device would be a lot smaller.

            With respect to manufacturing costs, it's probably a matter of how fast CNT devices go down the price curve. It isn't like carbon is either rare or expensive and the vendors would probably be relieved to no longer have to deal with African sources.

            It'll probably go down the curve very fast, given the demand for better power storage in mobile devices that is driving the research. From what I remember of the research, I'd guess it'll be in prototype production in a year or two and volume production in 2-5 years.


            Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

            by alizard on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 03:42:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  The environmental effects do concern me. (5+ / 0-)

    On top of the plastics used, and the blood coltan, there's also the lithium-ion batteries, which do wear out.  In theory, people are supposed to recycle them and old/dead phones, but frequently don't, which means we have lithium and other toxins in the landfill or elsewhere.

    There's also the problem with exploding batteries, especially since so many batteries are made cheaply, and people put less expensive third-party batteries in their phones (and laptops.)  Lithium-ion batteries are fussy devices, which can only tolerate a specific temperature range, certain charge and discharge rates, a certain maximum and minimum level of charge, and so on.  The worst case scenario is that a lithium-ion battery experiences what the engineers call a thermal runaway.  In other words, the battery bursts into flames and explodes like a roman candle.

    If the manufacturers and phone companies were smart, maybe they'd look into semiconductor technology that didn't require coltan, but instead could be made to work with more environment-friendly materials.  They'd also be working to make batteries and other components safer and reduce their environmental footprint.

    Waster of electrons, unlawful enemy combatant.

    by meldroc on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:29:44 PM PST

  •  Disposable society (4+ / 0-)

    You used to be able to buy things that would last for years and years.  I remember my grandmother's toaster - it was heavy and built to last for 50 years; even cars don't last anymore.  My step mother uses an Electrolux vacuum that she bought in 1959; she had a problem getting bags, but wrote to the company and can still get them through special order.  Can you imagine a vacuum today lasting 48 years?

    Corporations have purposely made things cheaply so as not to last and to be thrown out every year or so.

    Cell phones are just another commodity people think they can't do without and another filling up our land fills, not to mention the potential health hazards.

    I know when I talk on my cell phone for a long time I get a headache, so I try to keep my calls to a minimum.

    When the government fears the people, that is liberty. When the people fear the government, that is tyranny. - Jefferson

    by CTLiberal on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:29:51 PM PST

    •  I think some of that is crazy. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Things are less reliable because they're more complicated, hence, more likely to break.

      Cars, appliances--everything electronic--now has embedded computer systems instead of just mechanical parts and basic circuits. It makes them much more sensitive to dust, moisture, and general wear-and-tear. Also, with one item having more parts in it, the likelihood of something breaking increases. Old cars, for example, never had to worry about a broken power-steering, anti-lock brake, or emmisions-control system because those things didn't exist.

      And, for the record, many places accept cell phones for recycling. The parts are actually valuable and some of the raw materials--including the one the diarist names in particular--can be melted down and re-used.

      •  Sort of (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alizard, BachFan, dennisl

        It's generally the mechanical stuff that fails - switches, connectors, hard drives, fans, motors. You're correct that more complex systems are less reliable (where reliable means roughly "how long it lasts"), but electronic systems aren't generally susceptible to dust, reasonable moisture (might not survive underwater, high humidity isn't usually a problem), or wear and tear. If you're like most people, particularly if you have pets or smoke, the inside of your computer will have a large accumulation of the most disgusting dust you've even seen and still work fine.

        There are some exceptions - power supplies, CRT monitors - but generally solid state electronics has a very long life after the first few initial hours of operation. There are companies that make junk, but not that many.

        I used to have the title of "manager of test and reliability" and was responsible for warranty statistics, failure analysis and for warranty costs.

        It is not possible to be alive without having an impact on the environment - William Cronon

        by badger on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:49:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Here's the flip side: (0+ / 0-)

      There is another side to the story. What most people overlook when they talk about things that used to be built rock solid in the "good old days" is that the same things also were far more expensive than they are today - and at the same time usually were far more limited and often also far more problematic in terms of environment and safety (imagine if cars lasted 50 years - we'd still drive cars without catalytic converters and seat belts!)

      Your grandmother's toaster probably uses twice as much energy as today's toaster and can do nothing but toast bread. Quite likely, it contains asbestos.

      At the same time, she had to work about 20 hours to be able to afford it if she made the median income for men.

      You ask "can you imagine a vacuum today lasting 48 years?" I'd have to ask back "can you imagine a toaster today costing $500?"

      The actual price for a 1950 GE Automatic Toaster was $22.50, according to an Christmas ad currently for sale on eBay

      The median income was only $2570/year for men. Yes, that's per YEAR.

      And today:

      A Hamilton Beach bagel toaster is $12.96.

      The median income for males in 2005 was $31,275.

      Today, she'd have to work about one hour for a toaster than can not just handle slices, but also bagels.

      Or she could go for a high-end Haier America 1.5 cu. ft. Commercial Stainless Steel Convection Oven, RTC1700SS and still work less than the 20 hours for it.

      To be honest, I think that buying a $12.96 toaster every five years is the better deal from every perspective, even for the environment.

      Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

      by sdgeek on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 01:06:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Noise pollution! (4+ / 0-)

    Our world has become so much noisier.  Cell phones ringing and people yakking on their phones everywhere you go.  I have come to hate going out - walk, shopping, lunch, dinner-  with friends who insist on carrying their phones because it's impossible to have a conversation without interruptions.

    Was it so bad when we weren't plugged into and available to everybody 24/7?

    What FDR giveth; GWB taketh away.

    by Marie on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:34:13 PM PST

  •  Danger in NY Subways (0+ / 0-)

    I hate cellphones.  It takes us away from actually communicating.

    There's a proposal to put cell-"towers" in the New York City subways, a very dangerous plan.  Riding the subway requires paying attention, and, in a way, relying on others' behavior for safety.  

    In addition, I think that the potential for second-hand radiation is going to make cellphones, very soon, the next "cigarettes."

    •  No safer (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      amRadioHed, nobody at all

      The amount of radiated energy you receive from the tower is fairly minimal compared to the amount your phone gives out. Having transceivers in spaces that was previously a blank spot actually reduces the amount of radio power.

      When cellphones "handshake" with a tower they send out their weakest signal with a "hello" If you place your phone near a radio you will hear this being sent as a series of pulses. If they get confirmation, they maintain that level. If they do not get a response, they send out another signal this time at the next level up. This can increase in intensity until the phone is sending signals near to the level used in commercial aircraft communications with the ground.

      Having micro-cells in the tunnels and on stations means you are not subject to everyone's phones screaming out for a signal.

  •  Yet they could be better than landlines (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dennisl, sdgeek

    The environmental cost of the cell tower systems isn't particularly worse than the cost of the massive copper wire connections, and is better in many places.

    If we had cell phones/companies which respected privacy that would help a lot.  

    This is an example where the social policy makes cellphones a problem: the technology isn't inherently bad.  Why couldn't we have cellphones which we keep for many many years, recharging the batteries?  We could, that's just not the culture.

    -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

    by neroden on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:08:23 PM PST

  •  don't have one, don't want one, but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, JeffW

    It's true that it's getting harder and harder to locate a working pay phone these days.

    A Republican is a person who says we need to rebuild Iraq but not New Orleans. - Temple Stark

    by Christopher Walker on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:12:18 PM PST

  •  Learn to stop worrying & love'em. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    exNYinTX, sdgeek, JeffW

    Cell phones are here to stay, at least until they are replaced by some even more powerful, even more convenient portable communication gizmo. There are drawbacks -- environmental, social -- but the positives outweigh the negatives.

    1. They are getting so cheap that many poor people who couldn't afford a land line (many of my clients) can afford a cell phone.
    1. They help people to be our creative, innovative selves. Plans can be made and adjusted on-the-fly. What used to be down time is now productive. (Yes, the decrease in quiet reflection is a real loss, but the vote is in.)
    1. Our creative, innovative selves have only begun to figure out how to exploit this technology. Give us a few decades and the social changes will be amazing.
    1. I predict many developing countries will skip implementing landline networks, and go straight from no phones to cell phones. And it will be a big boost in their rise from poverty.

    Anecdote: On "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer," I saw a squad of American soldiers talking with an old Afghan peasant. The Americans looked like Robocops -- body armor, helmet microphones, mirrored sunglasses, video-game looking weapons. The Afghan looked like he'd have looked 2,000 years ago -- robe, sandals, white beard. The American squad leader wanted the Afghan to agree to report any Taliban in the area. The Afghan said (through a translator), "OK, I'll call you on my cell phone. What's your number?" The American didn't have a cell phone.

    -4.25, -4.87 "If the truth were self-evident, there would be no need for eloquence." -- Cicero

    by HeyMikey on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:22:44 PM PST

  •  In conclusion... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    amRadioHed, sdgeek, JeffW

    ...cell phones aren't any worse than plasma screen TVs, expensive cars, fancy clothes or furniture--things people don't need, do want, aren't great for the environment and have some degree of negative societal effects.

    I, however, cannot and do not live without my cell phone. As someone who's actually home no more than one waking hour per day, reliance on a land line would mean no one contacts me ever. That and the fact that I like it, which is the only justification I need to give for purchasing anything--it's benefit to me is no less than the cost, hence, I find it worthwhile.

    And, for the record, many pay phones were removed because they were predominantly being used for drug dealing. You can partially thank the war on drugs for that one, as well.

  •  I'm betting it's another (0+ / 0-)

    worldwide population culling technique. After all, are the folks you see on cell phones 24/7/365 the same ones you want running the world in an anti-climate change regime?  Homey don't think so.  And anyway, the Bluetooth earpieces are so Borg.

  •  In the face of other comments here, I feel odd (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    amRadioHed, sdgeek

    in saying that I have a cellphone, I love my cellphone, I wouldn't be without it, and I no longer have a landline.

    My phone is my multi-purpose companion--I use it for music, ebooks, and audiobooks, all of which help my commute, whether walking or riding transit. I get no spam phone calls on my cellphone. I can connect to the internet on my cellphone. It's my calendar, my address book, my notepad.

    Humanity always got along fine without whatever technology it's cooked up. But we always do love the new stuff.

  •  I have to admit they are the family intercom (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I can't live without it. No camera phone, no mpg - just a phone. But with two workers and teenage kids at school twenty miles away it has become a critical communication tool. I recycled every cell phone I ever broke (only reason I change) and have a family minute share plan.

    the other reason is because I travel for work a lot. The cost of a monthly plan is way less than long distance from the hotel.

    If I were in an urban neighborhood and kids weren't at soccer practice thirty minutes away, I could agree. As it is, I wouldn't get rid of them for the world.

    Democracy is the only form of government wherein the people receive the government they deserve.

    by tjlord on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:47:23 PM PST

    •  Also, must add - the wife was a D candidate in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      1. The other important use was to call a person from their front porch if they weren't home when you came to their house on a walk list. A personal voice mail telling them you are sorry you missed them and that you left campaign literature was very well received by almost every voter.

      Democracy is the only form of government wherein the people receive the government they deserve.

      by tjlord on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:48:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is there still a payphone available? (0+ / 0-)

    There is in Acworth.

  •  More skepticism, please. (0+ / 0-)

    Cell phones do not cause cancer, nor are they responsible for the bee die-off.  It's supposed to be the reality-based community, people.  

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