The Casual Blog

Tag: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

My new crown, and notes on health and violence

 

New construction on Hillsborough Street

This week I bit the bullet and went to the dentist to get a crown on my bottom left molar (tooth number 18).  The filling in that tooth was worn out and starting to crack, and a replacement was needed. The procedure involved a lot of drilling.  The anesthetic worked, and the drilling wasn’t painful, but the noise, the burning smell, and the uncertainty were not pleasant. But it’s good to have operational teeth, and I am  grateful for modern dentistry.  

I took my first yoga class in many moons last Tuesday morning.  I’ve been working out at the gym most mornings, but yoga fell out of my routine after a teacher I’d liked left.  Returning to Blue Lotus, just across the street from our building, I was reminded vinyasa is harder than it looks, but also more calming than it looks.  It’s good to contract and stretch, to move in sync with others, and to be reminded to breath deeply.

I suppose we could spend too much time on our bodily health, but for most of us, that risk is theoretical; we usually err in the other direction.   At times our bodies seem so solid, and at times so fragile.

There was a fascinating, though also gut wrenching, piece in the NY Times this week about the effects of an assault rifle shooting into a human body.  Guns like the AR-15 propel bullets at two or three times the speed of a handgun, and so unleash exponentially greater energy.  Five trauma surgeons described the gruesome effects of such bullets. They make a small entry wound, then tumble, exploding bones and causing widespread tissue and organ damage, and then tear a large exit wound.  One surgeon noted that seeing a victim of such a shooting is traumatizing for bystanders.

Kudos to the high school students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and elsewhere who have been making themselves heard on the  subject of assault weapons and other guns.  A lot of us who think the lack of reasonable gun laws is very bad policy have gotten discouraged and wondered if we’ll ever get anything positive done. These students are righteously angry, and they are hard to ignore.  They may be changing the terms of the debate.

Now if we could just get some of that energy focused on addressing the risks of thermonuclear weapons.  While assault weapons on public streets are very dangerous, the destructive potential of the world’s nuclear stockpiles, including the US’s, is incomparably worse.  Apropos, recently there was a short interview with Daniel Ellsberg, who worked as a nuclear strategist in the 1960s.  In Ellsberg’s view, only amazing luck accounts for our not already having had a nuclear apocalypse.

I started reading Ellsberg’s recent book, The Doomsday Machine, in which he recounts learning that in the early 60s, US war planners expected in case of any nuclear war to kill several hundred million people.  We know now that they underestimated, and that the blasts, fires, pulses, fallout, and famine from nuclear winter could well mean the extinction of all humans, not to mention many other life forms.

There are serious voices trying to get this issue on the table, though they get little play in US mainstream media.  A few weeks ago, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists put the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight   signalling the closest we’ve been to disaster since 1953 and the height of the cold war.   Last year 122 nations in the United Nations voted in favor a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.  This year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.   

This essay by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is well worth reading.  It explains that we need to de-escalate international conflicts and enter into nuclear control diplomacy. As the Scientists note, humans created this problem, and they can solve it.  

Rising like the phoenix from the ashes — new construction viewed from Casa Tiller

 

A swimming milestone, Courage-ous soccer, deconstruction in our neighborhood, gun idealists, and nuke idealists

Looking south over Capital Boulevard at downtown Raleigh.  Our building is the big one one on the upper right.

I had the last of my eight swim lessons last week, and my teacher Eric seemed pleased with my progress.  My primary objective was learning the butterfly stroke, which I did, though Eric said it looked like I still had to think about it, which was true enough.  He said the cure for that was practice.  On freestyle, we talked about gliding and breathing, and for backstroke, we focused on keeping the head and chest up.  He liked my breaststroke!  These last weeks working on better swimming have been energizing, and I look forward to many more good laps.  

On Sunday afternoon, we got out to see our N.C. Courage play the Chicago Red Stars in the semi-finals of the National Women’s Soccer League.  These ladies can play!  The Courage had more attacks, but Chicago played almost flawless defense, and the game was scoreless through 89 minutes.  In the 90th minute, a hard, low shot from the Courage’s Denise O’Sullivan  found the net.  The crowd went wild!  The Courage, in their first season here, will be playing in the championship game in Orlando against the Portland Thorns.   

 In our neighborhood there’s a tremendous amount of construction going on, and also deconstruction.  Just a couple of blocks to the north and east, several buildings have been taken down in the last couple of weeks, including Finch’s Restaurant and my favorite photo gear and advice spot, Peace Camera (whose business is now located at Quail Corners Shopping Center).  The destroyed buildings had no particular architectural distinction, and it’s sort of exciting to see things changing and look forward to new developments, though at the moment it’s a wasteland.   I took these pictures on Saturday morning with the Tiller Quadcopter.     

The horrifying mass shooting in Las Vegas happened in front of the Luxor, where I stayed last year.  The national press mostly focused on the killer’s motivation, which remains unknown.  I read a couple of interesting pieces on the more important question of why a lot of Americans are passionate about guns and oppose all gun regulation.  Kurt Andersen’s piece in Slate is brilliant.  Andersen acknowledges that shooting guns can be a perfectly fine recreation, but also shows the powerful fantasies and fears that drive gun activists to extreme positions.  Somehow a significant number of people came to believe that they need a lot of powerful guns because they’re likely to be needed to fight the government that wants to take their guns.  

I also thought David Brooks’s latest NY Times  column on guns was thought-provoking.  Brooks views love of guns not so much as a product of fear or fantasy as of identity politics.  People who oppose gun regulation are demonstrating solidarity with a matrix of “conservative” issues, such as opposing abortion and immigration.  He suggests we need to end the culture wars if we want to address the gun issue.  That’s a tall order.  In the meantime, if we hear something that sounds like bullets, let’s be prepared to hit the deck.

Speaking of perils, I’d like to congratulate this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Committee for recognizing them:  the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).   Don’t feel bad if you missed the announcement of this prestigious prize, which the NY Times buried on page A10.  The risk of nuclear accidents and nuclear conflicts is so enormous that it’s almost impossible to think about, and so we generally don’t.  The situation is dire, but it isn’t hopeless.  Indeed,  ratification of the new UN treaty banning nuclear weapons is in process in at least 53 nations.  Kudos to the ICAN for continuing to sound the alarm.