About Zack

About Zack
I am a freelance writer and researcher from the Pittsburgh area. My writings have been published in
The Washington Examiner, The American Conservative, The Mises Wire, The Daily Caller, and The Federalist among other places.

In the past, I have worked on regular executive level briefings, documentary research and fact-checking, research prep for a Soho Forum, and various other miscellaneous research tasks ranging from going through newspaper archives to compiling academic profiles.

Feel free to email me to discuss your research needs and how I can help you lighten your workload and ensure your projects stay on schedule.

Email me at Zyost81@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

John McCain's Legacy

With the passing of Senator John McCain on August 25th, social media has been abuzz with controversy, as usual, between those lavishing immense amounts of praise and adulation (see Jack Schafer’s round up on the mainstream media’s grief-stricken canonization efforts) on the late senator, and those who, with varying degrees of tact (“When John McCain was Right”) and callousness, had more negative reflections to his legacy.

While the desire to steer away from crassness is understandable, what is not as clear  is why commentators feel the need to laud a man whose main legacy is greatly––and perhaps even fatally––weakening the very country he spent his entire life serving. One need not impute ill motives to McCain to point out the extreme cost his good intentions incurred.  

As the famed Chinese strategist Sun Tzu wrote, “warfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death, the Way (Tao) to survival or extinction. It must be thoroughly pondered and analyzed.” It was to this greatest affair of state that McCain dedicated most of his career — first in the navy as a pilot, and later as a leader when it came to foreign policy in the senate. In this preeminent role, more often than not, McCain ended his analysis by concluding that the United States armed forces should be dispatched in arms to intervene around the world. From Serbia to Iraq, from Iran to North Korea, McCain was always leading to charge to push for further US military involvement. Fortunately, in many instances, calmer heads prevailed and the US did not invade North Korea or start a war with Russia over Georgia. Unfortunately, US hawkishness has already done immense amounts of damage.

While at the moment, McCain is being remembered fondly in most of the mainstream press, if one looks to the distant future, it seems likely that he will not be remembered for being a jovial colleague or for having positive interactions with reporters. Rather, his true legacy will be the long-term consequences of the interventionist policies that he championed, consequences that will continue to bear poisonous fruit for decades.

While some consequences are easier to see than others, one that is clear  is the massive price tag that have accompanied McCain’s wars. Although it seems to be conveniently ignored by both Republicans and Democrats at the moment, the US is currently over $21 trillion in debt, not even counting tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities. According to research from Brown University, the war on terror has cost over $5.6 trillion dollars. Even worse, it’s estimated that, by 2056, the US will have accrued another $7.9 trillion in interest on the debt used to fund these wars.  

In 2010, then-Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen told CNN  that debt is “the most significant threat to our national security.” It seems that Mullen’s warning has failed to dissuade further unfunded spending, since the national debt has since continued its trajectory through the roof

It is also worth mentioning that China, the only other state on the map that could potentially be an unfriendly great power rival to the US, has been one of the largest lenders to the US, holding just under $1.2 trillion in US bonds. Should relations between the US and China deteriorate, China could have a mass sell-off of US bonds, bonds issued in part to fund the wars McCain supported. This would hand China the terrifying capacity to wreak havoc on the US economy, devalue the dollar and make it more expensive for the US to borrow money in the future.

Beyond the ever-increasing monetary cost of these wars wars,the U.S. has racked up an incalculable human cost as well. According to the Watson Institute’s Cost of War Project, over 6,800 US service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. On top of this an additional 7,000 US contractors have died as well. Nearly 1 million VA disability claims have been filed from veterans of the Iraq and Afghan war. Equally chilling, the rate of veteran suicide has shot through the roof.:in 2014 alone 7,400 veterans killed themselves. And, of course, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed or displaced across the Middle East as a result of these wars.

John McCain’s legacy is leaving the US massive debt, economically vulnerable to a likely future geopolitical rival, an epidemic of veteran suicides, and thousands of dead soldiers. Unfortunately, his legacy does not end there. Much like interest on the national debt, America will be paying for McCain’s wars in other unforeseen ways for decades to come.

But conservatives have long known of the devastating consequences war has on the health of societies. As author William Lind pointed out in The American Conservative, true conservatives should hate war; its negative consequences for social order are without end. It racks up an immense monetary cost, leaves young men dead or disabled, has the potential for  negative and unpredictable cultural change, and can destabilize society itself. In Lind’s words “if history is a guide, and it usually is, the price for the nationalist right’s love of militaries and war is likely to be higher than we can [sic] to imagine.” Similarly, conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet has documented the far reaching negative consequences increased militarism has had on American society, especially when it comes the atomization of individuals and the enlargement of state power. As I have written about in The American Conservative, this increase in state power that results from militarism itself lends to even further social breakdown.

John McCain has indeed left an immense legacy — a legacy that will live on far after he has passed from living memory. The American militarism he promoted, however, is nothing new. Its continued effects, compounded by the numerous conflicts in which McCain helped the US involve itself, have only made the ailing body politic of the US more frail. As we look ahead, from amidst the chaotic and decaying present of the Trump era, we are left to wonder if the US will ever manage to recover from McCain’s long-lasting legacy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Deregulate TV White Spaces to Solve Pennsylvania's Rural Broadband Access Problems

For most people, the internet has become a ubiquitous and integral part of our daily routines that going without it would seem like going without indoor plumbing or electricity. Yet, that’s the reality that millions of rural Americans––and hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians––face every day. This deficiency is, in large part, due to the fact that it’s difficult to connect isolated households and communities to high-speed internet.

In Pennsylvania, the state and federal governments have tried to remedy this lack of access to the rest of the world with taxpayer-funded subsidies to internet providers, yet the problem persists. Rather than pouring millions more taxpayer dollars down the drain, Pennsylvania should urge the FCC to deregulate unused white spaces on the same bandwidth used to transmit TV signals that can be used to connect rural households to the internet.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set the benchmark for advanced communications capability, often called broadband, as having a download speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for fixed services. According to the FCC’s most recent report, around 800,000 Pennsylvanians––six percent of the total population––lack access to broadband at this level. This issue disproportionately affects the rural poor: a full 20 percent of rural residents lack decent internet access.

Under Pennsylvania state law, residents have the right to purchase access to broadband internet, defined as having a download speed of 1.54 Mbps. This speed is many times slower than the FCC definition, and the inability to reliably access the internet has negative consequences for students, teachers, and businesses around the commonwealth. Businesses in areas with poor internet connection across the state have expressed fears they will be forced to close up shop or relocate due to the lack of internet. In one report from The Daily Item, focused on the Susquehanna River Valley in central Pennsylvania, a custom snowboard company confessed that it’s forced to send employees to another town in order to download needed files onto a flashdrive and then drive back. A tax business along the Susquehanna River also relayed similar concerns with their frequent internet outages, saying that, in the digital age, when everything is kept online, it is simply impossible to keep up without it.

Many places in Pennsylvania aren’t even receiving the state minimum 1.54 Gbps. In November 2016, Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 investigated the slow internet speeds in rural areas and found that some places had even less than 1 Gbps download speeds. Despite poor results from the $434 million in taxpayer subsidies from the federal government between 2006 and 2016, Action News 4 reports that telecom companies in Pennsylvania are slated to receive another $509 million between 2017 and 2027.

With Verizon estimating that “it would cost ‘millions if not billions’ to provide copper or fiber lines for broadband internet across rural Pennsylvania” it may seem that the only option is for rural Pennsylvanians to be stuck in the internet dark ages, or for the government to continue to pour millions of dollars into subsidizing access. However, recent technological innovation in the ability to utilize the unused white spaces to transmit the internet across vast distances appears to offer a cheaper and more effective solution.

White space technology has been pioneered by Microsoft and has been successfully implemented in other countries around the world, such as Namibia and the Philippines. Microsoft estimates that the use of TV white space technology could provide access to about 80 percent of the US rural population currently without broadband. Additionally, they project that utilizing TV white space technology in conjunction with other connection methods, such as satellite, fixed wireless, and 4G, is the cheapest most efficient way to eliminate the rural broadband gap in the US.

To that end, Microsoft has launched an initiative to eliminate the rural broadband gap by July 4 2022, through partnering with telecoms providers and providing royalty-free access to patents and licensing of the TV white spaces technology and code that Microsoft has already developed. Just this week, Microsoft President Brad Smith joined with the governors of Arkansas and Colorado to discuss the digital divide in rural areas.

However, the current regulatory environment surrounding white spaces and their use has created uncertainty that is preventing developments and investments from taking place. This is likely the largest obstacle in the way of TV white space technology being used to increase rural broadband access. Space on the spectrum is limited and the majority of it has been auctioned off by the FCC to various broadcasters and businesses.

Fortunately, the deregulation of the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi spectrum demonstrates the ideal solution. By simply allocating three channels on the TV spectrum as being for public unlicensed use, the FCC can make clear that there is a space for TV white space technology to operate in, opening the door to the necessary investments in the technology.

In an age of rapid technological change and globalized competition, Pennsylvania can’t leave hundreds of thousands of its residents behind in the internet dark ages. FCC deregulation of the white spaces that make this technology possible is the first step to ensuring that no Pennsylvanian gets left behind.

Zachary Yost is a Young Voices Advocate who lives in the Pittsburgh area. Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyYost.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Appearance on Young Voices Podcast

Last week I was on the Young Voices Podcast to talk about the Alt-Right and some of my recent writing. Let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I Go Live on the Young Voices Facebook Page Discussing My Recent Article in the American Conservative

Last week I went live on the Young Voices Facebook page to talk about my recent article in the American Conservative entitled "The Triumph of Reason Over Emotion". Let me know your thoughts.

(Excuse my off-centered head)