Is the U.S. nuclear arsenal still a deterrence?

WSJ graphic

The editorialists at the Las Vegas Sun are living in a mad, MAD world. You know: Mutually Assured Destruction. Never mind that some of the people with their fingers on nuclear triggers may well be suicidal seekers of the apocalypse.

But let’s dispel a factual error first. “There are nearly 7,000 warheads in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, deliverable across the globe at a moment’s notice by missile, aircraft and submarine,” today’s Sun editorial proclaims.

Well, not quite. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the U.S. has a total of about 6,600 nuclear weapons, but 2,600 are retired and awaiting dismantling. Another 2,200 are in stockpile and about 1,800 are deployed. Russia has similar numbers, they say. Enough to make the rubble bounce, as we used to say?

The Sun quotes a Time article that hysterically declares President Trump has put the Nevada National Security Site on notice to be ready to renew testing of nuclear weapons solely for the purpose of scaring potential enemies into backing down. The Sun declares that testing is totally unneeded. (The editorial did note that Gov. Brian Sandoval says he has been assured no nuke testing will take place in Nevada.)

The Sun says the mere idea of renewed nuke tests “demonstrates an astonishing lack of understanding about the nation’s military and the world’s perception of the U.S. More than anything, it proves that Trump’s feelings of inadequacy and inferiority know no bounds.”

But is our nuclear deterrence still a deterrence?

According to a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, our ancient B-52 bombers and outdated cruise missiles are vulnerable to Russian and Chinese air defenses and we have only 20 penetrating B-2 bombers located at a few insufficiently hardened bases.

While we once had 41 ballistic-missile submarines, SSBNs, we are down to 14, the article notes, and those, too, are vulnerable.

“American ballistic-missile defense is severely underdeveloped due to ideological opposition and the misunderstanding of its purpose, which is to protect population and infrastructure as much as possible but, because many warheads will get through, primarily to shield retaliatory capacity so as to make a successful enemy first strike impossible — thus increasing stability rather than decreasing it, as its critics wrongly believe,” the writer, Mark Helprin, explains. “Starved of money and innovation, missile defense has been confined to midcourse interception, when boost-phase and terminal intercept are also needed. Merely intending this without sufficient funding is useless. As for national resilience, the U.S. long ago gave up any form of civil defense, while Russia and China have not. This reinforces their ideas of nuclear utility, weakens our deterrence, and makes the nuclear calculus that much more unstable.”

Helprin disputes the federation of scientists stats and states the Russians have 2,600 currently deployed strategic warheads compared to the U.S.’s 1,590.

Another WSJ writer points out that the U.S. has no tactical nukes, which means if confronted by another nation’s use of smaller nukes on the battlefield, the U.S.’s only ability to counter is with a full-scale nuclear exchange and a global holocaust — or to back down and lose all credibility for defense commitments.

Perhaps we should not be so fast in declaring there is no need for continued nuclear weapon development and testing. It is a mad, mad world after all.

Federation of American Scientists graphic

 

 

 

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Should we have practiced journalism of rote regurgitation?

As in the case of the dog that did not bark, the solution to the mystery may lie in the answer to the question: Why?

On Monday the morning newspaper reported that 20 years ago the same paper, when I was editor, decided to “spike” a draft of an account about an ongoing lawsuit against casino owner Steve Wynn, apparently one claiming gender and age discrimination because one of Wynn’s casinos had created a policy requiring waitresses to lose weight and wear high heels.

I do not recall what was in the story or why it was not published, but I deeply resent implications and innuendo that the newspaper management at the time shirked its journalistic responsibilities. Monday’s story suggests the 1998 draft may have included accounts in court files by some plaintiffs that other women, not themselves, had been sexually harassed by Wynn. The story points out that reporting of court proceedings are protected against defamation litigation and quotes some journalism professor as saying, “Journalism has to be about courage.”

Apparently in the eyes of some, the journalism of verification has been supplanted by the journalism of rote regurgitation.

The code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists calls on journalists to “Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it.”

If someone walks through the front door and hands a reporter allegations of a salacious nature, the reporter would be obligated to verify. Just because someone makes the same allegations but launders them through court filings might sometimes protect the newspaper from litigation but does not absolve the paper from doing its job of responsibly reporting verifiable facts as accurately and fairly as possible. It is not about courage, it is about responsibility to the readers. (By the way, an online forum on responsible media warns, “The fact that documents are lodged with the Court in civil proceedings will not, of itself, attract privilege.” The privilege applies to evidence given in open court.)

The same due diligence would apply to the busboy as well as the wealthy casino owner.

As I said, I do not recall the specifics of this one incident 20 years ago, but the implication that the paper was lax in not reporting something just because it was filed in court is ludicrous and insulting and, dare I say, defamatory.

As for the credibility of the currently barking dog, former Publisher Sherman Frederick points out that longtime columnist John L. Smith resigned when the current newspaper management ordered him to never write about two of the biggest players on the Strip — Wynn and current newspaper owner and casino bigwig Sheldon Adelson — because they had unsuccessfully, repeat, unsuccessfully sued him over passages in books he had written.

 

 

 

 

Profit before proselytizing at the morning newspaper?

Last six-page Viewpoints section

Everybody assumed that when casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas newspaper two years ago for an obscene $140 million — $38 million more than the previous owner had paid nine months earlier — that he intended to use the paper to spread more of his conservative political views. After all, he was spending millions of his gambling-generated assets to support conservative candidates for public office.

Apparently, profit is more important than proselytizing.

Without fanfare and apparently without notice, the Review-Journal recently cut its opinion pages on Sundays from six pages to four and on Wednesdays and Fridays to one page instead of two. This follows what appears to be the purchase of thinner newsprint — possibly down from 32-pound stock to 30-pound, would be an educated guess — as the price of newsprint has increased steadily recently and the threat of tariffs on Canadian paper has been raised.

Buoying this supposition is the fact that since the middle of January, the Las Vegas Sun insert has been running a daily front page announcement saying that it is now charging for access to its online content. The putative editor of the alleged newspaper states that this is because, under the joint operating agreement that requires the Sun to be inserted in the morning paper, the Sun gets a percentage of the R-J’s profits, but there are no profits.

“The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper,” he writes every day. “We hope they find a way to turn the R-J around in the face of ongoing revenue and circulation decline.”

The R-J bid for that profitability appears to be thinner paper and fewer pages, though considerably more savings could be netted by dropping the 10- to six-page, ad-free Sun insert.

The morning paper has already made a symbolic gesture in that direction. For years the Sun insert has been included in the online electronic replica, dubbed the eEdition, of the printed paper, but two weeks after the Sun started running its daily notice about charging for online content the eEdition dropped the Sun. Petty payback perhaps? Portent of things to come?

 

Morning newspaper is a ‘non-profit’ operation, says Greenspun

Brian Greenspun — the putative editor of the Las Vegas Sun, the tiny printed insert in the morning newspaper and the website of the same name — has just confirmed what many have presumed for the past few years.

He has posted online a note telling readers that the Sun is about to start charging for access to online articles after free access to 10 articles. The reason is simple. He is not making money from the joint operating agreement with the Sheldon Adelson-owned print newspaper. Not that he is contributing much of anything to attract print readership.

Here is his explanation about the paucity of funds coming his way from the JOA:

A major source of our newsroom funding has dried up. Years ago, the Las Vegas Sun stopped publishing our print newspaper and stopped selling newspaper advertising in competition with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In 1990, we combined our print operations (as well as our circulation) with the Review-Journal. The Review-Journal took responsibility for printing, distributing and selling advertising for the Sun and benefited mightily from this arrangement. The quid pro quo was that the Las Vegas Sun would get a small percentage of R-J profits that we could use to help fund the continuing operations of our newsroom. In short, the combination with the Review-Journal provided much of the money necessary to pay for the quality journalism the Las Vegas Sun provides.

For decades this approach benefited the R-J, and every management team there delivered a profit — a little less of a profit each year, but still healthy enough to help us offset the significant costs of our news operations.

Unfortunately, that has changed.

The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper. We hope they find a way to turn the R-J around in the face of ongoing revenue and circulation decline. (And no, purchasing a print subscription to the Sun and R-J doesn’t benefit the Sun in this current scenario.)

Our initiative with the metered paywall is an effort to replace some of that lost funding for the newsroom.

Perhaps Greenspun continues the contractual JOA just out of spite, because it is surely costing Adelson a lot of money for wasted newsprint for the wasted Sun section, whose only worthwhile content is the cartoon Dilbert.

Donald W. Reynolds, the former owner of the morning Vegas paper, is reputed have declared that the only measure of the success of a newspaper is its profitability.

Newspaper insert takes its lead from the previous day’s editorial page

At least we know there is one person at the Las Vegas Sun insert in the morning newspaper that is reading the editorial page of the Review-Journal and taking it to heart.

It can’t be a coincidence can it?

Back on the 20th of December, the R-J published an editorial referencing an article in The New York Times from four days earlier about Harry Reid ramrodding through $22 million in secret funds for the purpose of researching UFOs. The next day the Sun published that week-old NYT story on its cover.

On Monday the R-J published an editorial referencing an NYT article from the previous Saturday about the regulatory burden being heaped on apple growers by federal agencies. Today the Sun printed that same story on the cover. Perhaps they have finally found their niche — being a helpful supplement to the actual newspaper.

Or, once Pavlov rang the bell his dogs salivated.

Sun’s new slogan: Last week’s news today

The New York Times proudly displays its motto on the front page daily: “All the news that’s fit to print.”

In this age of the Internet some wags have given printed newspapers the derisive motto: “Yesterday’s news today.”

The little insert in the Las Vegas newspaper has taken that dig to heart. Today it has published a New York Times article about a “Black Money” secret government project to investigate UFOs. The article, which appeared on the front page this past Sunday, was first posted online on the Times website this past Saturday afternoon.

The Times reported on Monday that the story had dominated the most emailed and most viewed lists since being posted.

The Las Vegas newspaper carried a brief about the Times story on Sunday and an editorial on Wednesday. Both noted that former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid managed to sneak $22 million in funding for the UFO project into the Defense budget in secret and that the money went to his friend Las Vegan Robert Bigelow.

Meanwhile, Politico picked up the story, as did Fortune, CNN, Fox, Newsweek, the New York Post, NPR, USA Today, Salon, a British newspaper, Slate, the New York Daily News, the National Review, CBS, the Dallas Morning News, the Washington Post, Japan Times, National Geographic, countless other publications and bloggers.

So, today, for its readers who had not yet bothered to read the original story online, in print or in one of its numerous incarnations, the Las Vegas Sun reprinted the five-day-old Times piece in its entirety, earning its new slogan: “Last week’s news today.”

The headline makes no mention of the editor’s pal Harry Reid and his name does not appear until the jump. There is no photo of Reid or Bigelow.

Robert Bigelow (NYT pix)

Sun ‘newspaper’ flips off print subscribers again

Just as it did Monday, the Sun print edition inserted in the morning newspaper was mostly wire service copy. There was a report by a retired Reno political journalist about what was said on a television show last week about the Bunkerville standoff. That story appeared on the Sun’s website three days ago.

There also was a repeat of the full page graphic by the Sun staff telling people how to sign up for ObabaCare.

None of the original Sun staff stories that appeared on the Sun website Monday made it into print. Nor did the Sun staff stories that appear online today — about gun violence in Las Vegas since the Oct. 1 Mandalay Bay massacre, about a Golden Knights coach, about the Raiders breaking ground for a new stadium, about an art project in the median of a street, about a House of Blues performer and the arrest of a former public school teaching assistant.

The Sun exists as a print insert only because of a 1989 joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal under an exemption to anti-monopoly law, called the Newspaper Preservation Act. That law was intended to preserve media “voices” and journalistic competition in communities because so many newspaper were going out of business. The Sun is holding up its end of the deal, a deal that does not sunset until 2040.

But it has Dilbert: