Gun Control – Established 1600s

Part 1:

Gun Control – Established in the 1600’s;
Fueling Debate for over 400 years.

Second Continental Congress

July 4th, 1776.  The Second Continental Congress agree upon The Declaration of Independence, officially breaking away from the governance of Great Britain and King George III; whilst simultaneously issuing within it what some have proclaimed to be one of the best known sentences in the English language.  It is also one of the most hotly debated over.  Most Americans know the words by heart, or did at some point in school at least.  Take a moment, can you remember it word for word if you know which phrase it is?  The second sentence of the Declaration states:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Powerful words; noble, just and morally solid no doubt.  “Honest” Abe Lincoln even centered it around the core of his political ideals, using its philosophy of all men being created equal most notably for The Gettysburg address.  He continually debated throughout his career that it is the statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be viewed.  His reasoning for advocating this view so fervently is two-fold; one being the words were a perfect message for the nation during the civil war.  Second, and more importantly to this conversation, these words never appear in the US Constitution, nor in the Bill of Rights.

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The Declaration of Independence is not a legal document, and therefore does not grant legal rights such as The Constitution or Bill of Rights.

A highly publicized reason this phrase is so controversial these days is its relationship to the Second Amendment.  One of the most debated issues across the country, guns are about as American as apple pie.  Arguably more.  Engaging in a civil discussion with either side quickly reveals a glaring issue with the debate though.  Beyond an apparent vitriolic tribalism to one side or another within the noise, is a lack of understanding.

In order to fully comprehend the issue one must understand a small library’s worth of factors involved, making it difficult to be versed in every aspect due to the grand scale of information required.  A key part, that rarely seems to be attempted to be understood, is the long history of what the Second Amendment is all about; “The right to bear arms”.  Many people in The States believe this phrase first appeared in legal form as the Second Amendment to the United States Bill of Rights, but you need to go back almost seven hundred more years for its first legal print under the English King William I in 1101.  It is in the 1689 English Bill of Rights that resides the inspiration for the Second Amendment.

King James the II – Responsible For The English Bill of Rights (Against Catholics).

King James II took power when his brother Charles II died in 1685.  Charles II had been a devote Protestant his entire life until he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed, which at the time had few fans in England.  James was a fairly progressive king when looked at for face value.  He promoted religious freedom, having been a Catholic for 17 years by then under Protestant rule, and gave many Catholics positions within state.  The issue with this is that when looked at deeper; James was an authoritarian who silenced the press, completely ignored laws, and was equally guilty of persecuting religious opponents.  James is a complicated character in history; doing some seemingly good things, but not always seemingly for good reasons and vice versa depending on your views.

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William of Orange lands at Torbay

In 1689 James was deposed, forcibly being abdicated and fleeing from Britain to France after his cousin William III sailed from the Dutch Republic to invade.  William of Orange was invited at the behest of a group of Protestant nobles and was greeted by more nobles joining against James in what became known as the Great Revolution.  Of the things that have been attributed to James by people through the years, that he took arms away from the Protestants perhaps stands out the most.  This accusation could presumably be the catalyst of the debate on arms control, though there is no direct evidence of said accusations.  None that is, save a single mention in a book titled, The State of the Protestants in Ireland under King James’s Government written by The Most Reverend, William King; Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland – Dated 1691.  A Protestant and avid supporter of the Glorious Revolution in 1689, King wrote the book (an entire volume berating James II’s reign and Catholicism) while James II was still fighting in hopes to regain his throne in Ireland.  The claims are never explained further, nor mentioned in any other contemporary document, leading me personally to believe the accusations as propaganda for the time.

When King William III and Queen Mary II took the throne in 1689, they agreed to signing into law the English Bill of Rights.  The United States gets much of its inspiration for their own Constitution and Bill of Rights from the document.  In it the Parliament states and codified:

“Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law”

Which is arguably due to James violating this common law (different from civil law, which the Bill of Rights would make it afterwards) of the time:

“keeping a standing army in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law”

The Protestants were terrified that James wanted to perform a Catholic takeover of the country, slandering him to the point its hard to tell what his true intentions were.  The libel going to the point even of decrying that his last child was a “Changling” … a mystical creature.  The newly convened “Protestants-Only” Parliament of 1695 passed (this is the literal statues name) “An Act for the better securing the government, by disarming Papists”.  This was most likely retaliation against the Irish Catholics who sheltered James before he fled from there as well back to France.  This was yet another case of the Catholics being disarmed, happening before in 1613 with King James I who ordered all Catholics disarmed.  Again, there is little hard evidence of said actions except a few vague references in declarations from the time.  It seems more in line with the continual propaganda war waged between the two Christian sects since the beginning of Protestantism.

Protestants and Catholics – Same Thing Different Name Gone Way Too Far

That may be a little inaccurate.  Saying they are the same thing is like saying an orange is the same thing as a tangerine.  Their very similar, but have key differences easy to spot when put side by side.  This would be ill-advised though, as the Oranges (Protestants) wanted to murder the Tangerines (Catholics) and vice versa in the 1600s.  Explaining the whole history of why this was would take a whole series of books in and of itself.  To attempt to summarize, Protestants wanted to break away from the Roman Catholic Church by the end of the 14th century and go back to the roots of spirituality – rather than wealth and power.  The Roman Catholic Church responded violently in 1546, as was their tendency against those they labeled as Heretics, but could not fully squelch the insurgent sect that had spread through Europe like fire by then.  While at the climax of the Catholic’s campaign, Muslim Turks attacked Vienna forcing the Catholics to divide their attention and resources, the priority going to Vienna.  Had it not been for this attack Protestantism may have been wiped out across Europe, but with the lessening of pressure it took root and flourished.

In England – Religious Political Governance

Protestantism would become both the dominant cultural religion in Europe as well as the political over time.  King Henry VIII began the English’s path by continually undermining the authority of the Catholic Church from 1509 to 1547.  Henry’s reason was for personal gain, namely his numerous amount of marriages which was against Catholic law, rather than his overall religious morals.  Henry was a firm believer in Catholicism but conflicted with the Pope over his first marriage which would initiate the English Reformation and the Church of England, giving Protestants a strong foot hold within English lands.  After his reign, England for another decade would revert from one sect to the other with their politics over two monarchs.  Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) would attempt the diplomatic middle ground throughout her early reign.  Her personal alignments favored the Protestants at home with the newer Puritan sect radicals being excluded from her sympathies.  Her later years cemented a lasting Protestant population within England and its lands.  By the end of her reign she had openly supported Protestant rebellions in the Netherlands and provoked Catholic Spain into open conflict. Elizabeth’s support of Protestantism would start the trend of Catholic and Protestant rebellions inside Britain as well as royal assassination attempts for generations.

Charles II – Turning The Boiler To High

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King Charles the II

Catholics would be blamed – rightfully so in certain cases – and martyred across Britain for numerous incidents for nearly the next one hundred years.  Included are events such as the Gunpowder Plot (a Catholic assassination attempt on James I in 1605), The Great Fire of London (blamed on Catholics) as well as an uncountable number of small “Papish Plots”.  Charles II’s reign (1650; exiled, 1660-1685 reigned in England) came after a nine-year exile in France which would influence him and his brother, to-be-successor James II, in their views on Catholicism.  Born and raised a Protestant, he re-established the Church of England’s authority in Parliament after the English Civil War deposed his father by execution.  Charles II was a devote Protestant his whole life, but favored religious tolerance and freedom, and despised being pressed into the Clarendon Code by Parliament. In 1672 he introduced the Royal Declaration of Indulgence in response which increased recent fears of a Catholic take over, both of the Monarchy and Parliament.  Parliament forced Charles to withdraw the declaration, on grounds of his Catholic sympathies.  Later that year the Treaty of Dover was revealed when he openly backed Catholic French ruler Louis XIV and started the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674).  Parliament again would intervene, forcing Charles to abandon the war effort in continuing fear of it being a plot to make England Roman Catholic.

Parliament, petrified by their own shadows of Catholic plots, put The Test Acts in place February 4th, 1673.  “An act for preventing dangers which may happen from popish recusants” being the full official title.  They enjoyed their titles back then.  The Test Acts were designed for a singular purpose.  Ensure Catholics were not able to ascend to Parliament or any public office.  The Act made appointees to office swear the following:

“I, (Name and Titles), do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.”

While archaic in its wording, its pretty simple to translate really.  “I, (Name and Titles), don’t believe or partake in Catholic rituals, and am not a Catholic or a non-conformist.”

1679’s “Popish Plot” revealed to all that Charles’ brother, James Duke of York, was a Catholic.  The Exclusion Crisis that came about produced the Whig (exclusionist) and Tory (non-exclusionist) parties in Parliament, being split between support for Charles and the pressing worry of his succession.  Beyond the new Parliamentary parties, it would begin the new chain of events leading to the Glorious Revolution and the Bill of Rights.  Charles dissolved the English Parliament not only once that year of 1679 but twice, setting a precedent with disastrous consequences to come for Catholics.  The first dissolution came early in the year to protect Lord Danby, his chief minister, from impeachment for abiding by Charles’ wishes towards France, even while Danby had his own qualms with those wishes.  By mid year he would disband it for the second time to block the passage of the Exclusion Bill, designed to stop James from succession to the throne.  Charles, now just days past his 49th birthday, still had no direct heirs which drove Protestants to near hysteria.

Charles would assemble one more Parliament at Oxford in 1681, only to dissolve it yet again after a mere few days.  Encouraged by a rise in personal support across the nation, Charles decided to reign without another Parliament until his death on February 2nd 1685.  His brother James II, whom parliament had tried so desperately to block from ascending to the throne, would do just that and turn the nation completely on its head.

James II – Short Reign, Long Lasting Consequences

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King James the II

From nearly the moment James II took the throne his reign was faced with rebellion.  Crowned in April with public reports of rejoice and celebration, by May there was armed conflict with Protestants.  The Duke of Monmouth – James’ nephew – in the south and the Earl of Argyll in Scotland to the north.  Both rebellions were coordinated between the two lords to strike simultaneously, but had little impact due to poor planning and were defeated with ease.  The rebellions posed little threat on their own but would give James the unforgivable thought of raising and increasing a standing army for his safety. Parliament was beside themselves with this act alone, the practice of having a standing army in peace times being seen as a tyrannical breach of traditions.  James stepped over the line though when he appointed several Roman Catholics to command a number of regiments in his new army – without haven taken the oaths of The Test Act.  His Parliament till now had supported James, but objected thoroughly to these measures. As a result, James took a lesson from his late brother Charles II and dissolved Parliament. James wouldn’t assemble them again like his brother had – though attempting to once – and would reign without Parliament the remainder of his short stay on the throne.

James, free of opposition from Parliament, opened the flood gates to Catholics for office; allowing occupation of the highest seats in the lands.  Catholics were by and far a tiny minority of the population in England during this time, Protestantism in England having firmly ruled after separating from the Catholic Church.  James’ absolving of Parliament did not sit well among the populace like his brother’s had.  James did not seem to be bothered by this, as shown by his continual dismissal of judges and dissenters to his policies.  Free from the cumbersome burdens of things like Parliament and judges, James in 87 reissued the Declaration of Indulgence as well as began the plans to build a Parliament built from among his supporters. That Parliament would never form, a more pressing issue taking James’ attention in late 1688.  Revolt, invasion and abdication.

The Glorious Revolution

When James reissued the Declaration of Indulgence seven Bishops petitioned against the requirement for it to be read aloud in their churches.

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A Changling From Lore

He had them arrested and tried on grounds of Seditious Libel, another issue echoing throughout the ages to today.  The birth of his Roman Catholic son though is what drove hysteria about the Catholics finally taking over.  Protestants attempted any form of propaganda against the new heir including legitimately attempting to claim he was a “Changling” or creature from myth.

In a time where separation of church and state was a blasphemous thought – rather than a progressive one – across Europe, James’ ideas of tolerance and opposite actions towards Protestants – in their view – weren’t taken lightly by the Church of England or its followers.  In June of 88 Protestant nobles invited Prince William of Orange in the Dutch Republic to land on English soil with an invasion force to depose James.  Upon William’s landing a number of Protestant nobles defected to his side, abandoning James.  James, not wanting bloodshed, fled to France rather than engage William despite still having the superior numbers. James’ reasoning for fleeing differs between historians; some claiming cowardice and others nobility.  The smear campaign of James by Protestants that ensued after his abdication makes it difficult to tell for sure.

Soon to be crowned William III’s first act established a Parliament who quickly proceeded to declare that James, having fled to France and abandoning the Great Seal in the process, had abdicated the throne.  The Parliament immediately crowned James’ daughter, being William’s wife, Mary Queen to rule beside her husband who would become the King.  Before the end of the year 1689, the new Parliament would pass and codify the English Bill of Rights.  In the bill, not only did Parliament bar Roman Catholics from access to the English Throne and disallow the Monarch to marry a Roman Catholic; it stated: “Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.”

William would only rule a few years until his death in 1702, when James’ youngest daughter Anne would succeed.  Her death, again shortly after – 1714 – saw a small crisis in the line of succession introduced by the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights.  There were no direct Protestant heirs to Anne, and the closest heir of lineage – German cousin Sophia, Electress of Hanover – had died less than two months prior.  The crown was inherited by George I, Sophia’s son, through the Protestant lineage back to James I by way of a typically mind-bending family tree for the time.  George I is getting ahead of ourselves though, and will be discussed more in the next article.

So what’s the point?

Confused about what this has to do with gun control? That kind of is the point.  The first laws about “the right to bear arms” had little to do with actually bearing weapons and more to do with religious authority and political power.  The statutes, unlike in different areas of the world, never mention what arms are to be bear-ed.  They were created in an era where religious propagandists and zealots ruled over and persecuted those of separate beliefs.  Governance was dictated by the church or those high within it holding seats in the government which came with their own form of “arms” – A Coat of Arms.  In fact, religiosity was a requirement to be in office, and one of the things that fueled Protestants claims about James II authoritarianism.  The relevance of these past actions and properties has been lost in the modern conversation seemingly.

Of course, this is but a grain of sand – as large as our own entire grain of 200 years – on a beach of context in history; and merely the tip of the Protestant and Catholic struggle. The full history is vicious, bloody, and often executions were transformed into public spectacles of amusement.  Dan Carlin’s, Hardcore History; Painfotainment is not about gun control, but is a fascinating (yet graphic) listen about death as entertainment for the masses.  It traces the history back to the Colosseum, with a highlight about Protestant and Catholics (1:39:58, 1:32:20 for extra context).  It’s full length is four and a half hours, so brew a pot of coffee and settle in if you’re going to listen to the whole thing.  It gives a great insight to the thoughts of how the masses felt about the religious persecutions of the times for just a touch more context about the conflicts.

Meanwhile in History…

Across the Pond – The English Colonies

Catholics, Protestants, and Puritans in the Colonies. “Puritans, a people so uptight the English kicked them out.” – Robin Williams

Puritans, a radical offshoot of Protestantism, came to the Americas to escape the religious prosecution of the Church of England.  Not long after the colonies were established Puritans ended up committing the same transgressions perpetrated on them by the Church upon the settlers.  Puritans were so strict in their observance of the religious doctrine both the Protestants and Catholics wanted nothing to do with them. Roger Williams was a Puritan minister and was tossed from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 for preaching “new and dangerous ideas”.  Religious liberty, equal dealings and fair trade with the Natives and, most damning, separation of church and state were the dangerous ideas he preached.  Puritan officials were threatened by these thoughts, the Church not wanting other competitors in the colonies to their ideas.  Their need for religious uniformity in government mirrored what most had come to the colonies to escape.  Williams would go on to found Rhode Island on the principle of Religious Freedom, and organize the first attempt to outlaw slavery in the Colonies among many great deeds.  By the end of the 17th century Puritanism essentially devoured itself and would begin to give way to Protestantism, Catholicism and new Judaeo-Christian faiths.

17th Century Colonial Gun Legislation

The colonies had plenty of their own regulations, separate from England, on weapons and arms throughout the 1600’s.  This is where the debate in modern-day tends to start getting heated.  Many aspects about gun culture and regulation are conjectured on by experts, with few fully agreeing on numerous issues. Hunting-Turkey A generally popularized view is that muskets were common for hunting during the settling of the colonies, which is both true and false.  Its unlikely muskets were the primary hunting tool for colonists.  Cumbersome, noisy, slow and inaccurate past a short distance; muskets were poor choices of weaponry for hunting game.  Bows had fallen out of military use almost completely by now, but many hunters still employed the tool over the musket for its overall efficiency in regular hunting.  Hard to fully prove either way due to lack of written information from the general public, what is easier to prove is that both weapons and arms were common in Colonist law.  Beyond being common, the laws were fairly straight-forward in their intent.

Maryland stated in their statute “An Act for Military Discipline” of 1638:

“Every house keeper or housekeepers within this Province shall have ready continually upon all occasions within his her or their house for him or themselves and for every person within his her or their house able to bear armes[,] one Serviceable fixed gunne of bastard muskett boare…” along with a pound of gunpowder, four pounds of pistol or musket shot, “match for matchlocks and of flints for firelocks….

Experts have long argued vehemently over whether firearms were stored within central store houses or with the private individuals themselves.  Maryland’s statute seems relatively clear on this point though, stating “within his her or their house”.  While there were plenty of storehouses for firearms in settlements, the statutes from this time seem to show, at least in the legal documents, most firearms were kept by the individuals and not in community stores.  Stipulating this was the case, the private ownership may have aided in the success of the rebellions against the British that were to come for the next century.  Further supporting the idea that they were stored with individuals is a statute from Virginia in 1642.

“No man to discharge 3 guns within the space of ¼ hour… except to give or answer alarm.”

In 1655 they further prohibited discharging “any guns at drinkeing (marriages and funerals onely excepted)”.  Gun fire, in this period, being the usual alarm for an attack from the Natives against the settlers.  In part this could be because the colonies had their share of irresponsible use as well.  A transcript of a sentencing from 1684 for erroneous discharge of a firearm shows:

“1 July 1684 Robert Trayes of Scituate, described as a “negro,” was indicted for firing a gun at the door of Richard Standlake, thereby wounding and shattering the leg of Daniel Standlake, which occasioned his death.  The jury found the death of Daniel Standlake by, “misadventure”, and the defendant, now called “negro, John Trayes”, was cleared with admonition and fine of £5.”

Connecticut’s militia code in 1650 is a clear indicator that firearms were stored with individuals to most. It stated clearly:

“That all persons that are above the age of sixteene yeares, except magistrates and church officers, shall beare arms…; and every male person with this jurisdiction, aboe the said age, shall have in continuall readiness, a good muskitt or other gunn, fitt for service, and allowed by the clark of the band…”  Fines were issued to for not appearing with firearms “compleat and well fixt upon the days of training…”

Connecticut’s code, as well as Maryland’s 1638 Act, are seemingly completely clear in their wording.  As clear as they seem, they could be hiding the perfect example of how the term “to bear arms” is possibly supposed to be taken.  A grand tradition spanning hundreds of years throughout all of Europe was practically abandoned en mass by the colonist settlers.  The bearing of a Coat of Arms.

The Coat of Arms – A Major Misunderstanding?

Here is the major difference to this point in the legislatures.  In England and elsewhere across Europe, your “arms” referred to your “Coat of Arms”.  This was the probable cause of the wording for the English Bill of Rights’ “to bear arms”, as there is no credible evidence of James I or II taking weapons of any kind from the populace (that I personally can find).

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King of England’s Coat of Arms under James II

There is evidence abound however of James the II’s striping of offices; which in turn stripped the holder of their power and “Arms” associated with the position – as only one person may use it at a time.  The bills intention may be stating that an entire population of Protestants can be considered able to bear a coat of arms, within the condition that its lawful.  Which would be when you adhered to the Oath of Supremacy and the Test Acts under the precedent the Bill of Rights was established by.

This is supported by the legislature within the colonies, referring to the weapons themselves rather than a general statement of “arms”.  The “Coat of Arms” was nearly non-existent in the colonies compared to firearms which were, as shown, fairly commonplace.  Maryland and Connecticut’s statements could be said that the term “able to bear armes” refers to the unwritten code of Heraldry.  In which (basically); a coat of arms is considered property of sorts, and Undifferenced Arms are to be used by only one person at a time.  Descendants were able to bear the ancestors Arms after it’s owner had passed and the arms had undergone a slight difference.  This is further evidenced by stating the required equipment afterward in writing, rather than just leaving it at the bearing of arms.  The wording was likely used to describe eligibility of service and ensure sufficient numbers of militia men. This, however, is purely my own speculation on the Coat of Arms, as there is admittedly little to back this hypothesis. It’s a fun thought though.

The Start of a New Era – The Road to Revolution.

1689 was the beginning of warfare between the English and the French that used North America as one of several theaters and the colonist militias as support troops.  King William’s War, the colonies theater of the Nine Year War (1688-1697), started when James II fled to France and was fought between France Catholic colonists and English Protestant colonists.  The war in North America was mainly over the fur trade and influence with the native tribes.  This conflict would start a cycle of militias and scouts being employed from volunteers within the colonist settlers.  The British Regulars and Navy handled international wars, but the theater was unimportant to the statesmen of England and focused their armies elsewhere.  The English out numbered the French nearly thirteen-to-one, mostly supplemented from the colonist militias, yet were on the defensive for the majority of the conflict.  The English colonists had their own problems to deal with in the backlash of the Great Revolution.  Lasting until 1697 in the colonies, King William’s War would be one among many conflicts to erupt in the colonies in the period, and the set up for those to come after it.

Numerous rebellions within the colonies would start against the arbitrary governance of England, which over the next hundred years would evolve to become The American Revolution.  Part two will look at the effect these conflicts had on the colonists and their growing tension with Britain.  As tensions rise, the British annoyance with the rebellious colonists prompt attempts to take away their weapons, starting the ignition of The Revolutionary War…

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Jeff Bezos – Historically Rich, Historically Corrupt.

“Emperor” Jeff Bezos, The Worlds Richest Man Ever…

And Maybe The Most Corrupted.

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On Tuesday April 24th, Jeff Bezos arrived in the capital of Germany to receive an award for innovation, one of the many awards and honors he has received in the last decade. Bezos is worth $125 billion as of today. For comparison, the next richest person in the world, Bill Gates, comes in at $90.4 billion. His company, Amazon, started in 1994 as a small online book seller within a cramped personal office and nearly broke. Today it is the biggest business the world has ever seen, earning him some honors indeed, including being the first person in history – royalty included – to be worth over $100 billion dollars.

He was met by several hundred Amazon workers as he arrived in Berlin. They held signs up with Amazon’s name and iconic boxes to greet Bezos. The workers weren’t there to congratulate Bezos on his newest accolade though; they were there to protest him and the conditions he subjects his workers across the world to. The boxes on the signs workers held were anthropomorphized with faces and bandaged, exhausted and sick with the phrase “make amazon pay!” everywhere to be seen. Some workers even came from neighboring countries (Poland, Italy) to show their disapproval of working conditions and pay.

Amazon employs 566,000 people globally, making it the 10th largest private employer in the world. Germany alone accounts for about 16,000 employees, being the biggest country outside of United States for Amazon employment. 566,000 is larger than most active military forces; were Amazon an active military, it would be the 8th largest in the world. Workers worldwide have complained repeatedly about low pay, long hours and horrible conditions that sound as though they could be straight out of an Orwellian tale.

One issue employees are organizing for is appropriate pay. Amazon claims it pays its average full time warehouse worker about $15 an hour with paid time off, sick leave and even vacation time. The median yearly income works out to $31,000 for the average Amazon worker according to them. A decent pay package (in comparison to US national averages) for single, under-skilled or inexperienced workers with no children or dependents. It’s better than a lot of skilled, experienced workers get even. America is debating a $15 an hour federal minimum wage among some legislative circles, making Amazon seemingly progressive in this compared to other companies. The issue is only a small percent of Amazon workers actually are full time according to numerous people employed by the web company, and many have to actually rely on food stamps according to recent reports.

Amazon representatives and spokespeople continually reach out to nearly every journalist covering this issue, claiming that 90% of its employees are full time and regurgitating a nearly identical version of this message:

“Amazon provides employees with competitive wages and regular pay increases plus Amazon stock and performance based bonuses. We also provide comprehensive benefits which include health, vision, and dental insurance coverage starting on day one, generous maternity and family leave, tuition for career education, and a network of support to succeed.”

That is a statement to the Intercept from Amazon on April 20th in response to a recent in-depth report written by Claire Brown about the amount of people filing for food stamp benefits employed under Amazon, which is a shocking amount. Amazon has been attempting to discredit these claims as much as possible and downplay any reporting of it.

“Amazon provides employees with competitive wages and regular pay increases plus Amazon stock and performance based bonuses. We also provide comprehensive benefits which include health, vision, and dental insurance coverage starting on day one, generous maternity and family leave, tuition for career education, and a network of support to succeed.”

Sound familiar? This was sent April 20th as well to The Splinter, again in response to an article written by Emma Roller reporting on the amount of people on food stamps from Amazon. A few days later Amazon doubled down on this statement elsewhere.

 

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In an article written by Luke Barnes from Think Progress on 4/20, Amazon added some extra flavor to their response that evening, sticking with it for the days to come.

“Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay and full benefits. In the U.S., the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime. That’s in addition to our full benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance, retirement, generous parental leave, and skills training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program, which has over 16,000 participants.”

This was sent to The Daily Dot by an Amazon spokesperson on April 22nd in response to an article written by Phillip Tracy about the same issue with again the same wording. Amazon is simply blanketing this message across any reporting.

I’m expecting their response to mine anytime now.

All the articles detail that Amazon workers account for some of the highest amount of SNAPS filings in four out of the six states that responded to a public records request, making the list of top the 20 companies for employees to file for benefits in those states. Of note, in Arizona data indicates as many as one in three workers have to file. Pennsylvania and Ohio’s figures could be as high as one in ten. To be eligible for SNAPS benefits you have to make under $1,276 before taxes for a single person household. If you happen to make a cent more, the state cut all your benefits the second they find out. Yes, there are “exceptions and individual situations”, but coming from someone who has seen their family and countless other’s family and friends through the years, even myself at one point, need them to legitimately survive; the state doesn’t care. You’re cut off. Then you have the nightmare of appealing, while you no longer can afford food. For those who do have a family, the majority of workers, the cap only raises by $450 to $1,726 maximum amount of gross income for two household members. The amount you make at $15 dollars an hour per month is $2,400 though before taxes… something doesn’t add up with all these numbers and numbers very rarely lie. If you work forty hours a week, you need to make $7.75 an hour to edge underneath the $1,276 mark, a mere $.50 cents above the federal minimum wage.

Amazon isn’t outright lying though, to give them the benefit of the doubt. Their just manipulating the facts. That 90% full time claim is made up by an overwhelming number of temporary employees who are contracted out through temporary employment agencies such as Integrity Staffing Solutions. Amazon will hire workers through these agencies to fulfill a contract of “about a week to fifteen days” at full time, forty hours a week. For “between three to sixteen months”. In other words, every two weeks or so Amazon would renew their contract with their “full time” employee to work with them through the temp agency. What this does is allow Amazon to not pay any form of those benefits they rave about due to the employee not being an “Amazon” employee, but a temp agencies’ employee on lease. So Amazon pays the temp agency a bulk sum for the employees contract – negotiated between Amazon and the agency with no say of the employee – and saves themselves thousands of dollars per month, per person “employed” this way. The temp agency profits heavily as well, paying most workers just barely above minimum wage for their area for almost every job offered when it comes to labor. The agency keeps the worker going to the job by promising they are working toward “eventually being employed” at the company ,thereby getting the benefits and decent wage, though it rarely actually comes. Instead workers are strung along as long as both companies can, profiting all the way on the workers. Due to the this being such a widespread practice and Amazon’s heavy of coloring the conversation, it’s impossible to get a definite number for the amount of temp workers Amazon has; but it’s becoming a common practice across the entire global labor industry.

The other major issue the workers in Berlin met Bezos with protests for is that working conditions for Amazon’s employees range from vicious in-fighting in the offices to floor workers in warehouses and drivers urinating in bottles to be able to keep up with production quotas and fear of reprimands from bosses. Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld wrote an incredibly in depth article you can read here in The New York Times. Their report covers the angles of both the workers who enjoyed the push as well as those who didn’t or felt discriminated against. It depicts the harsh conditions involved across all of Amazon’s sectors, as well as the people who thrive in it.

“You can feel comfortable that if there’s a flaw in your plan someone will tell you to your face.”
– David Loftesness, Former Amazon Employee, quoted by The New York Times in August 2015.

“You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face. Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
– Bo Olson, Former Amazon Employee, quoted by The New York Times in August 2015.

“Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.” ”
– Excerpt from The New York Times, August 2015

Most people would think being subjected to this form of hyper productivity and questionable work environment would come with an exotic or dangerous job such as an oil rig worker or crab fishermen. But this is happening right down your street probably, in an Amazon office or fulfillment center in your very city. The ambulance zooming past you may be carrying an Amazon employee in fact. Amazon warehouses are notorious for having no air conditioners, it being cheaper to station an ambulance outside instead to take workers to the hospital for heat stroke and such. Laws allow this form of behavior too, and certain judges – like Neil Gorsuch – do all they can to not just allow it but let it go further. In this case, even saying an employee should freeze to death or lose their job. That particular case didn’t involve Amazon in any way though, just to clarify.

America is one of the few places in the western world who still pushes their workers as hard as they do, for as little money and with little to no empathy. Emphasis on the western world, as that is not taking into account things such as sweat shops, slave labor or “suicide watch” places that are a giant problem globally still and Amazon for all their other flaws is not part of. The U.S. specifically has been declared “unparalleled” in corruption and wealth inequality by multiple measurements, often topping lists or coming within the top three. Our Gross Domestic Product, which measures how productive workers have been, has steadily increased since the sixties yet wages have barely budged. Graphs bring this fact into stark contrast, and can be tough to stomach when first looked at.

US_GDP_per_capita_vs_median_household_income

Jeff Bezos appears to like these numbers though and wants to take that worldwide, as is evidenced by his companies everywhere repeatedly scolding and disciplining his employees for attempting to organize for better conditions and pay, either by union or independently, even going so far as to terminate their employment in a recent case. Over one hundred temporary workers were fired in San Fernando de Henares, Spain late March. The workers at the time had set up and organized a strike on March 21st and 22nd to object to recent changes that significantly cut wages and benefits. In response, the day before the strikes were scheduled Amazon decided to not renew the workers contracts with their agencies. Another reason temp agencies are favored by corporations now, if an employee gets out of line they can toss them without any hassle. They don’t even have to notify the worker.

“Last Friday uncertainty was general because we needed to come on Monday [to the outsourcing agencies that sub-hired them], and we had no previous notice at all. We feared the worst,”
– Former Temporal Worker – Spanish daily El Español.

Amazon’s official response to the dismissals was that they were due to low demand in the region for their services. With Amazon claiming to have made 130,000 new jobs last year and expecting to make even more this year, who are they trying to fool? These employees were from the biggest logistics center in Spain, which has been steadily rising since 2012. In 2013 revenue in Spain for Amazon was €38 million euros, rising €8 million in 2014 to €46 million euros. Gaining another €9 million for 2015, nearly 20%, their total was €55 million in which they only paid €660,000 in taxes on. As of to their claim for low demand? 2016 saw them declare over €100 million euros revenue, taking almost a 100% jump in “demand”. These numbers may not even portray the full figures, as Amazon was served with a €2.2 million euro fine for underpaying taxes in 2016. Moreover, it’s close to impossible to say what they actually should be paying in taxes due to its international structure in the EU. Being run across countries opens open more tax loop holes than one can shake a tax lawyer at.

ceo-pay-squeezing-everyone-cartoon3tax field leveling

Tax avoidance is a titanic problem contributing to the the increasing wealth gap across the globe, and Amazon is a world class act at that. There may never have been any better. Amazon raked in a stunning $5.6 billion USD in profit for the fiscal year of 2017. Their total tax bill on all that cash? At the standard U.S. corporate tax rate of 35% that should have totaled $1.3 billion USD. Before Amazon’s amount is revealed, take a moment and just imagine how much money that is, and what you could do with all that. 1.3 billion is such a large number, the human brain can’t compute an image of what a number that large would be in single units of measurement like dollar bills or people in a stadium. Now, that magic number they paid in taxes? It’s a little easier for the brain to summon an image of, but almost as hard to wrap around. $0.00. Not. A. Single. Penny. In fact, their total ended up being Negative $137 million… meaning that Amazon this tax season will be receiving a one hundred thirty seven million dollar tax REFUND. Because; you know, Bezos is really depending on that refund for his fifth massive house’s payment. Unlike some people who actually do depend on their refunds to pay for things they actually need.

As if Amazon’s grubby hands weren’t dipping into enough markets for your hard earned money, now they want your bank account. Amazon has cornered a number of markets over the years since the book stores, to the point where you name it and Amazon probably sells it. One major area Amazon has yet to fully explore is actual payment processing and personal financial accounts. Talks with JP Morgan and Capital One aim to change that though. The extent of the project is yet to be revealed, but initial information says the retailer would target young customers and people without access to traditional checking accounts starting in the U.S. The latter is a surprising amount to some with banks being an integral part of everyday life to most, but an estimated two billion people worldwide don’t have access to a bank account, and 7.6% of Americans alone. Amazon could well become the largest bank worldwide if they can use their global reach to offer accounts to those people. The regulations and restrictions, including for taxes, would be a tedious process to work out for such an international undertaking though, possibly giving pause to consideration of the idea but likely only for a short time, if any.

In the midst of all these arguably unethical practices, Jeff Bezos tries to play it off as if he is just some regular Joe Blow. Constantly saying he is proud of his company and their standards and operations and such, he never mentions the allegations and reports of conditions and pay. He even tries to go so far as to seem like a champion of the people with the illusion of seeking to help the less fortunate. On June 15 2017 Jeff Bezos tweeted this out:

For starters, this shows the man has thoughts for nothing but his money. If you need to ask for ideas on how to help people when you founded – from the ground up – the largest web company ever that sold books to start and are worth at the time of that tweet more than $80 billion… its insulting honestly. He is pandering for your support, plain and simple. And remember, he now is worth $125 billion; in one year he has accumulated another $45 billion dollars, over 50% of his net wealth.

On a side note, the comments to this tweet do have some great ideas from people who genuinely are trying to help and promote some great charities, foundations and causes. It’s worth checking out to see how many people are trying to help others. It’s also worth checking out to read the wave of troll’s comments, “pay taxes” appearing frequently, that predictably washed through for some laughs. Some are a little graphic though for good taste, an image of a guillotine being one.

What could that $45 billion dollars Bezos made the last year have gone to? Some truly helpful ideas that money could have fully or almost fully funded are:

Senator Sanders Education For All: $47 Billion a year.

  • People always ask where we would get the money for this idea in a “it’s a socialist fantasy” tone. How about we have Amazon pay the correct taxes and back taxes it owes and Bezos funds it for one year. It would be a perfect trial run to see if it truly is worth it to the country and would give an immediate boost to the US education rate which has plummeted over the last few decades.

Housing For All: $20 Billion USD.

  • To completely end homelessness in the US, estimates say it would cost $20 billion dollars to build enough homes to house every homeless person in the united states. This being for the higher estimates of the number of homeless in the US which we have no confirmed number for. It is guessed that there are between 0.5 and 1.5 million people any given night that are without a home.
  • The Volunteers of America have long been working to end homelessness through shelters, supplies, job training and more. To learn more about them or make a donation Click Here.
    (https://www.voa.org/homeless-people)

Ending World Hunger: Estimated at $30 Billion a year.

  • Coming with a yearly price tag rather than a flat bottom line, this one is much more of a general estimate but would include; purchasing the lands required to grow, the supplies needed to keep crops healthy and rotating as well as energy costs associated with the undertaking. One issue with the numbers is that there are 7 billion people on the planet, so each person would eat off $4.28 for a whole year. Top Ramen stocks would skyrocket. Realistically to actually put food in every persons hands would require innovations in how we distribute and keep supplies fresh as well as farming methods and land use ideas. This leaves entire new markets to be created if someone were to take up the cause.
  • Rise Against Hunger has set a goal to mobilize the resources necessary to end this issue by 2030, and made great efforts towards that goal. To learn more about them or donate, Click Here.
    (https://www.riseagainsthunger.org/)

Cleaning the Pacific Garbage Patch and plastic landmasses in the Indian and Pacific Oceans: Under $500 million a year.

  • Between $122 and $489 million. As well as again creating an entire new industry to add even more profits. These patches are caused by our general world culture of over consumption fueled by companies just like Amazon. In putting so much toward consumption, any biological process has to have a waste disposal system in place or things like this begin to happen. Amazon could build an entire “colon” for the worlds consumption to deal with things like this, and it wouldn’t even be noticed in the books.
  • Boyan Slat is a young inventor and this has been his focus for over five years, starting since he was a teenager, founding his company at only 18. He has taken his idea, TheOceanCleanup.com, and begun actual manufacturing on it, to tackle just this problem. If you would like to learn more about his fascinating tale, or to help him accomplish this vital task to all, Click here.

Clean Water and Sanitation Across The World: Estimated at only $10 Billion.

  • There are already some people doing great work on this cause, drilling fresh water wells for villages in remote areas of the African Congo Jungle. Justin Wren is a former UFC mixed martial artist and a current man on a mission to improve the quality of life for those who don’t have access to the most basic necessity for survival; clean, drinkable water.

  • Wren’s (@thebigpigmy) charity, Fight For The Forgotten, has been active for over 6 years in fighting slavery and oppression, growing and harvesting food, buying back land stolen from the pygmy people and protecting their lands from companies trying to exploit the natural resources of the area. That’s on top of the clean water. Wren himself has contracted Malaria multiple times from his excursions to the villages deep in the Congo. He is known and loved among the tribes, his nickname The Big Pygmy (“Mbuti MangBO”) given to him by the tribes, in addition to “Efèosa” meaning “The Man Who Loves Us.”

Justin wren - take a note bezos

How about a realistic thought though. How about setting up a real charity or foundation? Amazon’s only charity, AmazonSmile, is a far call from the best charity. AmazonSmile is a give back per purchase system. On it’s face it’s a good idea; charities and foundations register with Amazon for the program and are placed on a list. Amazon customers click a link provided that directs them to Amazon’s normal site, then shop on Amazon as normal after picking a preferred charity from the registered list. Once the purchase is complete, the charity then gets a small part of the total purchased amount.

If the customer didn’t click the link mentioned though, charities get nothing and Amazon gets the entire amount, it becoming just another regular purchase. This doesn’t seem like an oversight either, but rather a deliberate method to avoid donations. It would be a simple addition if Amazon chose to link whichever charity the customer preferred, to say their Prime Account, so that each purchase would give that small bit to the charity. The effort that would require on their end isn’t even a single employee’s full day in the office to code and implement the change to the site in theory. That small bit that sometimes gets to the charity is only 0.5% of the purchase also, totaling only $12,867,013 USD in 2015. Having made $99 billion that same year, assuming the math is correct here, AmazonSmile only donated 0.00012% of their income for the year. Further, this breaks down to $1.20 donated by Amazon for every $10,000 in sales. Don’t patronize people with fake philanthropic outreaches Mr. Bezos when your own foundation literally won’t even put in a 1% effort.

Jeff Bezos won’t even pay his own employees the wages he promises or even enough to live off without things like government assistance. Maybe this is the best place to start on his journey of redemption should he really want to tread it. Start by providing your own employees a decent quality of life through decent pay, quality of work and work environments, as was stated by a journalist for the Washington Post a few days after the original tweet; but he didn’t submit it to the Washington Post. Some of these stories have been heard through various media channels, but one place had absolutely no bad word about amazon or any of its affiliates. The Washington Post, which just happens to be owned by none other than Jeff Bezos.

The Washington Post has censored, chastised, tormented and even tried firing its reporters and employees for saying something that puts Amazon or Bezos in any kind of negative light. Fredrick Kunkle, a journalist for the Washington Post, wrote an article instead for Huffpost about Bezos’ philanthropic outreach attempt shortly after saying he should start by paying workers a decent wage and stop attacking their pensions and benefits. He gave a few more examples of Amazon firing workers for attempting to organize or join a union, giving an example of closing an entire call center for it.

Kunkle faced repercussions from his bosses within The Washington Post for his article. They didn’t claim it was for saying negative things about Amazon or Bezos though, they said it was for publishing as a freelancer to a competitor without prior consent from his bosses. He was not fired but was issued a formal warning, “But any similar or repeated infractions will result in increased disciplinary action, up to and including the termination of your employment.” This may have been in violation of a labor law according to The Post’s union, filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

“If you’re a Guild officer, and Freddy is, he has a legal right to publicize a dispute with management. It doesn’t matter what the outlet is.”
– Rick Ehrmann, Guild representative for the Washington Post’s newsroom.

Why is Jeff Bezos owning The Washington Post relevant to the conversation? Beyond continuing his questionable ethics; its a news organization. This allows Bezos to filter what he wants known printed and what he doesn’t silenced. Though Kunkle showed that he can’t keep a lid on absolutely everything. While not a giant secret, perhaps the scariest fact of all is that Jeff Bezos is taking gigantic amounts of Defense Industries money. The fact that he owns a national news outlet while earning over $1 billion dollars in defense contracts is one of the biggest, and clearest, conflicts of interest in history and there are all of three people actually trying to talk about it. Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk; Jimmy Dore, The Jimmy Dore Show and Lee Camp of Redacted Tonight. All of whom are veterans of the smear campaigns carried out by the mainstream in attempts to discredit them.

The CIA in 2014 gave Amazon a $600 million dollar deal to use AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud servers to handle all of the cloud computing under its entire agency. The deal took three years to negotiate and complete due to multiple lawsuits from fair practice watch dogs and competing contractors IBM for being done behind closed doors and underhandedly awarding the contract to AWS. After being sent back into the bidding phase by a court order, The CIA and AWS again colluded to ignore the other competitors. This was a done deal already, didn’t they all know that?

As of February, Amazon also acquired a tidy little $950 million dollar deal with the Department of Defense as well. REAN Cloud LLC (a company of AWS) was given the contract for cloud computing services to be a part of the upcoming JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) Cloud for the military. (Something that the Joint Chiefs of Staff may have mentioned as an idea here in January, 5g). The move by the DoD has signaled to Silicon Valley that they are going to use a single platform concept, and by selecting REAN as the early contract the rest of the system will probably be run on AWS systems with no middlemen. Between the CIA and JEDI, Amazon will be in control of the majority of the military’s cloud computing capabilities and be in bed with agencies we know are spying on it’s own citizens.

Among Jeff Bezos’ military ties, he was selected as a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board in 2016. The Board happens to be who decides what new technologies will be innovated and brought to the military by Silicon Valley and the best way to accomplish this. Though selected, he never officially joined the board and declined to comment about it when it was revealed in February 2018. That means he owns the largest online company in the world, a major newspaper, and is receiving over a billion dollars from the CIA and the Pentagon which is a dangerous combination of elements to be held by one man. Most people through history with this much power and wealth have been tyrants and dictators, brutally ruling their people through beating and starving them into line. Bezos admittedly is nowhere near that level. Yet. Most of the powerful through history didn’t start off or weren’t inherently evil. After all, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The workers protesting in Berlin have the right idea and will be shown to be on the right side of history eventually hopefully against such gross practices. The way Amazon continues to grow and Jeff Bezos continues to corner the world financially though, we all might just end up bowing to Emperor Bezos for our daily bread and water by 2025 or 2030.

King Bezos

-Picture Credit: Kyle(@disruptionLP), Twitter
“I do think Bezos has an insatiable desire to be King Bezos. He has a relentless work ethic & wants to kill everything in e-commerce”
– Elon Musk

Entering The Information Age Through 5G

But how will it be entered? Nationally or Privately?

(PDF of Memo presented to Trump Administration.)

A new Era in the Age of Information and Technology is coming right around the corner, and most people have no idea. The government wants a hand in it too, by nationalizing a project to develop a new network. The new technology of 5G data transfer will revolutionize how we can do almost anything wirelessly. Think 4G LTE speeds are fast? Your not wrong; at 17.45Mbps (megabits per second) top speed for the top carrier it can stream things pretty quickly. It’s rare to see the abhorred spinning wheel of buff with those sorts of speeds, so how can 5G be so much better?

How does 4 Gigabits per second (Gbps) sound? Not sure what the technical terms mean? First, don’t get these numbers confused with megabytes or gigabytes. Bits are (and actually have been for a very long time) the units used to measure a data transfer rate and are 1/8th of a Byte. A Byte is the unit of measurement for data capacity, not transfer rates. For those not familiar, Bytes are based on a 1,024 unit system, that changes its prefix every 1,024 units from starting with no prefix and progressing through Kilo, Mega, Giga, Terra to Peta. The upper casing and lower casing tell you the difference between a Bit and a Byte, the lower case being for Bit (bps) and the upper case being for Byte (Bps).

Using the above numbers; we can then break down the average fastest cellular network as of August 2017, T-Mobile at 17.45 Mbps, equals out to an actual download speed of 2.18MBps at max. 2.18 doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as 17.45 does it? This is part of the reason the communication companies use bits per second rather then bytes. So what does 4 Gbps break down to? A whopping 500 MBps. That’s not a typo, 4 Gbps comes out to 500 megabytes per second which is 229 times faster than the absolute fastest LTE network currently in operation in the US. It’s faster than our current broadband speeds too, averaging at 76 Mbps, an increase of six and half times of our wired speeds even. Its faster than the fastest broadband in the world as of December 2017… (Singapore – 154 Mbps.)

Still not convinced it’s a big deal? This won’t just let you stream your favorite music and movies faster and smoother; this could unlock some of the things we only thought possible in science fiction and make those that are already starting to jump from the pages into life much more efficient. Autonomous driving cars like Elon Musk’s Tesla, Tesla Semi and Google’s Waymo, who depend on Machine Learning, could be sending and receiving data to help them learn and make decisions quicker. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Reader) technology, useful for tracking nearly anything from your pets collar to entire product catalogs with warehouses worth of inventory and even management of fleet vehicles while in transit, could communicate seamlessly and instantly over incredibly large distances. Real-time AI computing and holographic projections may not be on the sci-fi level quite yet but it’s truly not far off, and 5G data transfer speeds may be just the boost we need to take them there. Alternate Reality and Virtual Reality have already made amazing advances in the last few years with products such as Magic Leap from google, the Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens, but 5G could see them reach far greater potential. 5G isn’t just for these types of devices either, 5G is aimed at being useful for all sorts of internet connected devices, from requiring this incredible connection speed to simple uninterrupted pings of information.

Recently, Axios got their hands on a memo drafted up by a senior National Security Council official. The article does a decent job of breaking the 30 page memo and power point presentation down, and even has it at the end of the article for you to read as does this one. The memo lays out a plan for the Trump administration to nationalize the development of the 5G networks, within a three year period, and a few options on how to accomplish this idea. The memo it’s self equates the project to Eisenhower’s National Highway System and the Space Race and what they did for the nation at the time. It does so under two big premises that are correct; economic impact and national security.

There are two types of nationalization, Capitalist Nationalization and Socialist Nationalization. This would be the former of the two. The United States has done this on a few occasions such as the railroads (Amtrak), broadcasting, space exploration and even nuclear fusion. It wouldn’t prevent the telecommunication companies from owning and operating 5G networks, it would allow to set aside a portion of the frequencies in the a frequency band for use on a national network. If the companies truly desired to do so they could own their own networks as well then lease extra space on the national network from the government in a nutshell.

The economic affect a nationalized network could have is vast to say the least. It could give manufacturing in the United States a boost in its recovery from 2008, where in two years nearly two million manufacturing jobs were lost (Bureau of Labor and Statistics), and make it a power player on the world stage in not just the production of the hardware required but in the selling of said hardware to other countries. There are only three major manufacturers of the majority of the hardware to date. Hauwei and ZTE, both based in china, have the lions share of the market to date according to the memo (41% combined, 29% and 12% respectively), with Nokia (Finland 26%) and Ericsson (Sweden 24%) close behind. Digging a bit brings mixed results with who is or isn’t on top in the market from day to day. Regardless of who you see on top of the lists on a given day though, it’s a nearly guaranteed bet it won’t be an American company. American manufacturing of telecommunication devices is almost non existent to this point, not even coming to 5% of the global market.

There are companies in the U.S. employing around roughly 20,000 employees over 227 companies; but the US industry can’t hold a candle compared to China (427,500 employees over 1,565 companies) or the European industries. Nationalization of the networks would bring about a major surge in jobs and revenue to this US industry. Beyond the manufacturing jobs it could create it opens an entire employment base of engineers, service technicians, general labor positions and local offices personnel such as management and customer service representatives. Even further, “Building the network will require new sources of skilled labor. This is an effort that government will need to get in front of in order to develop new sources of training. Department of Education can take the lead in developing training programs that ensure an adequate supply of skilled labor. Like the space race, the transition to the information era will require increased investment in both STEM education as well as increased funding for research and development.” That’s from the memo it’s self which basically translates to; new types of jobs for industries and more money for educators and researchers.

Beyond the manufacturing boosts and the addition of friendly local government communication offices, what about consumers? What kind of benefits would the small guy see? Consumers would benefit greatly from a nationalized network in a number of ways. To begin with, if the government sets competitive rates and prices for use of their service to the consumer with data and voice plans, the private telecommunication companies won’t have a choice but to adjust to compete. This won’t be some minor competitor they can muscle or buy out, this will be a major contender who can bully the bullies. The way things are with the private companies building separate, competing networks each company is limited to how much space they can effectively use, severely limiting speeds. Some companies are bragging about rolling 5G networks by the end of the year in select cities but the speeds won’t be true 5G speeds by any means. Most companies wont even come to a quarter of the speeds a national network would deliver by the time their fully rolled out. A more realistic estimate of true 5G networks being implemented in the US are between 5-7 years with companies competing in their current fashion. A nationalized project could take only 3 years and ensure full, unhindered 5G speed to consumers while bringing the pricing market on internet connections somewhat under control.

How about the national security issue? It doesn’t matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we all think national security is something that should be taken seriously. The memo takes security very seriously. One thing that is noticeable within the points of the memo is that the government puts rule of law over freedom of speech and fair markets as a principle of a network that would reflect their goals, and security over prosperity at another point (the information age getting a small mention at the very end).

The memo paints a pretty clear picture about China. China is on the way to ruling the markets and winning politically and militarily through this. It states that China is the “dominant malicious actor in the information domain”. It further has an entire section about how China is winning the AI arms race, and they are in position to capture all of our data and will gain a strangle hold through this on a few major industries most associated with requiring the new hardware. They say China wants to use their new AI algorithms to implement a global social credit system, to “ensure compliance on all levels of society to CCP edict”. The FBI has even been monitoring Hauwai and ZTE for their impact on the markets. Though shown in an ominous light throughout the memo, it is indeed correct in that China is currently dominating much of the race to the Information Age. China, with or without outside intervention at this point, may well already have its foot on the first step of the staircase.

So what about actually securing the network? We understand China is dominating markets and the government is deeply concerned about this. As sorely disappointing as it is, there is very very little mention of actual security measures to making this “security as a priority” network. Some discussion is put into the differences in security effects to different proposals, and some points are made about the Joint Command wishing to update their systems in essence saying their systems are a tangled mess and would benefit greatly from a single, centralized system. The two big items it actually does mention in terms of increasing security are building the network as a single block (a single, dense spectrum of 500Mhz), compared to a multi-block structure (multiple chunks of spectrum spread out among the private telecommunication companies in blocks of about 100Mhz); and standardizing the siting requirements by forcing municipalities to adhere to “national security standards.” It fails to mention what any standards, or actual security measures at all, would be or how they would be enacted or enforced at all.

There could be one very simple reason for this. Our internet is fundamentally flawed security wise, according to the inventors of the internet. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who made the blue prints for the world wide web, has said “the system is failing.” Other respected names within the community have said the internet wasn’t designed to handle this sort of volume, and its protocols are dangerously outdated for today’s use saying it would need to be completely rebuilt to be fully secure. Which is where the true security concern about the internet lies, the amount of connections to it.

This is why there is little to no mention of what standards or policies would be. The cold truth is, a network is only as secure as every single connection to it. To completely secure the network as thoroughly as the memo hopes to achieve, it would be required to secure each individual connection to the network. What makes it worse, smaller devices like your smartphone use stripped down versions of software to minimize resources used, not leaving space for traditional security measures. Another issue is monitoring the network itself. It can take time before it’s known an attack on a network is underway, and that could be the difference between it spreading or simply ending. Spotting such an attack on a national network would be faster than over multiple scattered networks. Should a security threat arise, one of the most effective ways to deal with it, if possible, is just to quarantine it. The great benefit a singular cellular network would have over multiple networks is that when spotted, theoretically, affected and connected parts of the system could be shut off to prevent further damage. This is all a tough task to plan out and accomplish, involving a multitude of factors within the transmitting devices themselves and the devices receiving the signals including; boot procedures, os updates, data protection, communications and tampering detection to list a small few. Security though will always be an issue, as it has been with humans forever, regardless of whether the networks are private or national.

Nationalization of the network(s) would have a great many benefits to both the economy and the consumer, and have few downsides. In the direct short term American manufacturing will see a spike and gain entry to the ring in the power struggle for the markets. It would also cost a large chunk of our infrastructure budget, though numbers are not presented to date. Tax revenues and product use would quickly payback the cost though with it being a 2.86 billion dollar industry by 2020 and projected to hit between 33.72 billion and 1.2 trillion dollars by 2026 depending on the report. Once the networks were operable the economy and the consumers would again see leaps and bounds in increases including new products and new jobs. On a nationalized network, speed would be unhindered while coverage would be consistent and wide ranging. On a privatized network speed would be drastically decreased and initially incredibly expensive. Coverage would be spotty at best to start, and only plans to roll out in select cities. Continuing to build separate private networks may also severely hamper nation wide time lines, taking up to ten years possibly.

Local regulations differ from location to location, and purchasing required frequencies can take up to seven years due to FCC regulations. A national network could cut that to 3 years. Through all this, whichever way the networks are built, security will always be an issue whether through private or national networks. Private networks are potentially at an increased vulnerability to security threats by their own monetary interest, often opting to make money rather than truly innovate or invest. A single national network would have the advantage of being able to monitor each connection, monitor the network as a whole, and have security to begin with at the forefront of its purpose rather than monetary gain which would be a secondary purpose. The driving idea of security is what has driven two of our most successful national projects to date, the highways and the space race.

The memo was presented to the white house and other officials about a week before the president’s state of the union address. During his speech, the president made a stirring call to rebuild this country’s infrastructure to a standing ovation from some and wanted 1.5 trillion dollars to achieve this over a period of two years, perhaps even one. He expressed the need for this because of our economy, and our people. Having read the memo and understood the importance the nationalized network might have on our struggling economy, and our people entering a new age where things will be moving even faster than before; one might have been expecting Trump to mention something about the project. It seemed to fit like a glove with the rest of his plan. Alas, not a single word was mentioned about 5G. Not a single word about telecommunications at all. He not only said nothing on these, but stated he might be privatizing certain parts of our infrastructure, going the completely opposite way of an effective policy in this area and others.

Trump is passing on a possibility of nearly unprecedented occurrence. Few other presidents have had such a rare opportunity drop right into their laps, Kennedy and Eisenhower being the names of note, to usher in a new era. Eisenhower gave us the Age of Travel, which quickly yielded way to Kennedy and the Space Age only five years later. Both of which are still in use through nationalized systems today, and still doing things for our economy and people to make their lives better. Trump now has the chance to make America a prominent leader in a new age again, and seems to want nothing to do with it. If Trump were to but reach his hand out and grab it, the Information Age would usher him right into the names of the greats, standing alongside such figures as Eisenhower and Kennedy and on top of another national project.

 

Link to PDF version of memo presented to the Trump administration featured in Axios article:

Secure-5g Memo PDF

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