Abbreviated pundit round-up: The creepy allure of mini-nukes; standing up for Ilhan Omar

James Carroll has been a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has a multitude of other appointments, has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books as well as countless essays in major magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. At TomDispatch, he writes—Doomsday Redux The Most Dangerous Weapon Ever Rolls Off the Nuclear Assembly Line:

Last month, the National Nuclear Security Administration (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission) announced that the first of a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons had rolled off the assembly line at its Pantex nuclear weapons plant in the panhandle of Texas. That warhead, the W76-2, is designed to be fitted to a submarine-launched Trident missile, a weapon with a range of more than 7,500 miles. By September, an undisclosed number of warheads will be delivered to the Navy for deployment.

What makes this particular nuke new is the fact that it carries a far smaller destructive payload than the thermonuclear monsters the Trident has been hosting for decades — not the equivalent of about 100 kilotons of TNT as previously, but of five kilotons. According to Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the W76-2 will yield “only” about one-third of the devastating power of the weapon that the Enola Gay, an American B-29 bomber, dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Yet that very shrinkage of the power to devastate is precisely what makes this nuclear weapon potentially the most dangerous ever manufactured. Fulfilling the Trump administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility,” it isn’t designed as a deterrent against another country launching its nukes; it’s designed to be used.  This is the weapon that could make the previously “unthinkable” thinkable. […]

Unlike tactical weapons, intercontinental strategic nukes were designed to directly target the far-off homeland of an enemy. Until now, their extreme destructive power (so many times greater than that inflicted on Hiroshima) made it impossible to imagine genuine scenarios for their use that would be practically, not to mention morally, acceptable. It was exactly to remove that practical inhibition — the moral one seemed not to count — that the Trump administration recently began the process of withdrawing from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, while rolling a new “limited” weapon off the assembly line and so altering the Trident system. With these acts, there can be little question that humanity is entering a perilous second nuclear age.

Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post writes—Profile of Holden Caulfield, an American boy:

We are doing these profiles now, I guess!

Holden Caulfield is a high school senior from New York. Like all boys his age, he thinks a lot about what he wants to do with his life. He wants to just stand in the rye at the edge of a cliff and catch children before they fall off. That’s all he would really like to do. But life is never that simple.

Holden Caulfield is 16 and happy not to be a phony. To be a phony would be the worst thing in the world, likely. It would just kill him. He’d have to pretend to give a crap about the opera and crummy things like that, which he doesn’t ever want to do. He might not be a phony, but everyone around him is. […]

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After 10 hours of GOP obstructionism, @HouseJudiciary just passed #HR8, the universal criminal background check bill, the first firearms safety legislation to pass out of Committee since the 1994 assault weapons ban. It was 23-15. pic.twitter.com/Fqh2YzL4KD

— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) February 14, 2019

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