MISSILE INTERCEPT MILESTONE
The June 10 interception of a reentering warhead by an Army anti-ballistic missile (ABM) was an important step forward in developing defenses against nuclear attack—a subject covered frequently in REASON editorials and Trends reports. But its importance did not lie in the reasons given in most press reports.
The actual interception of a warhead by a missile is nothing new; the first such event took place some two decades ago. The real significance of the June 10 test is twofold. First, it demonstrated the ability of a self-guiding (infrared) interceptor warhead to find the target and home in on it, rather than having to be guided all the way by ground-based radars. Second, it proved the effectiveness of a nonnuclear kill mechanism—a 15-foot metal "net" that destroys the incoming reentry vehicle simply by the kinetic energy of smashing into it.
Thus, the test provides strong evidence that existing guidance and nonnuclear kill-mechanism technology can be effective as an ABM mechanism—which is precisely the point raised by advocates of proceeding with a near-term, off-the-shelf missile defense such as High Frontier (see Trends, June-July, p. 14). A meaningful degree of defense against nuclear attack can be provided by using today's technology, while R&D is proceeding on more-exotic space-based "Star Wars" system for the future.
PRESS TO THE WALL
One wonders if the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ever heard of press freedom. As Michael McMenamin and William Gorenc documented in their REASON article "Subverting the First Amendment" (Jan. 1983), the SEC has engaged in wholesale violations of the First Amendment rights of financial-newsletter publishers.
In May the 850-member Newsletter Association pointed out that the SEC's control of financial newsletters is harsher in several ways than the infamous UNESCO proposal for a New World Information Order to control the press. The Association noted that unlike the regulations that UNESCO would create, the US government via the SEC licenses publishers, regulates publishers and writers, and has the power to ban publications both nationally and globally, impose criminal penalties for violations, and maintain a blacklist of banned publications.
Such powers are evidently not enough for the SEC, however. In its lawsuit against former Wall Street Journal reporter R. Foster Winans, who allegedly took $31,000 in exchange for stock tips, the SEC is maintaining that a reporter has a duty to disclose his or her financial interests to readers.
That has journalists and constitutional lawyers up in arms. As lawyer Floyd Abrams notes, it amounts to government setting preconditions for working as a journalist, and that, he said, is "very troubling." But Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R–N.Y.) is sponsoring legislation that defines "insiders" to include journalists. (SEC regulations have long prohibited "insider trading" by corporate executives, using their access to internal information to make gains in the stock market.)
But all the news is not so bleak. In May came word that newsletter publisher Christopher Lowe is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a circuit court decision that upheld a prior restraint on his publication of financial newsletters. As McMenamin and Gorenc recounted, Lowe's SEC license to publish financial newsletters had been revoked by the commission because of his previous criminal convictions unrelated to his publishing business.
Lowe's case has long enjoyed the support of much of the financial-newsletter industry, but it got a big boost on June 6 when the Washington Post published an editorial strongly favorable to Lowe's First Amendment rights. "It is a case we hope the court will hear," said the Post. "[Newsletter registration] is an unwholesome practice and a violation of the First Amendment as most people have understood it over the past two centuries.…The financial publications are an important part of the American press, and the Supreme Court needs to take a thoughtful look at that misguided appellate court decision."
• Union power left standing. The controversial "good standing" provision of California's farm-labor law was recently upheld by a state court of appeals. As detailed by Patty Newman in her article "Harvest of Power" (Sept. 1983), the provision allows farmworkers' unions to have workers fired if they violate union rules; federal labor law, in contrast, says that a union can have a member fired only for nonpayment of union dues. The court ruled that the United Farm Workers union had acted legitimately under the state's law in ordering some members fired for crossing picket lines during a lettuce strike in 1979. The decision is being appealed to the state's supreme court.
• Eager TV entrepreneurs. Since the Federal Communications Commission opened up the microwave end of the TV broadcast spectrum to greater commercial use last year, it has received more than 16,000 applications to broadcast on these frequencies. Prior to the FCC decision, much of this part of the broadcast spectrum was reserved for use by nonprofit and educational organizations, with commercial operators restricted to only one channel per market. Consequently, out of thousands of available channels, only several hundred were being used. The intense interest in the opened-up microwave frequencies indicates the degree of competition that might flourish in the TV industry if regulators would ease restrictions even more (see "Cable Competing by Many Other Names Spells the Same," June-July, p. 24).