America’s First Blow for Freedom

Do you know what “America’s First Blow for Freedom� was? If you’re like most Rhode Islanders, who live outside of Cranston and Warwick, then the answer more likely or not is no. That’s sad because it means that the majority of Rhode Islanders are unaware of the important role that Rhode Island played in the colonies’ fight for independence from England prior to the American Revolution.

In 1772, the HMS Gaspee patrolled the waters of Narragansett Bay to enforce the Stamp Act. On June 9, the Hannah lured the Gaspee onto a sandbar off of what is now Gaspee Point and while it was stranded, a group of colonists burned the Gaspee. For a more detailed synopsis of the events, visit: http://gaspee.org/BurningGaspee.html

I grew up in the Gaspee Plateau area of Warwick and my neighborhood was located right on Narragansett Bay directly across from Gaspee Point, where the burning of the Gaspee transpired in 1772. Each Memorial Day weekend, my brothers, friends and I would visit the Gaspee Days Arts & Crafts Festival at least two of the three days (sometimes more) and eagerly await the Gaspee Days Parade which is held the second Saturday in June. I can document stages of my childhood from pictures taken at the parade; from my first parade at 10 months old, to when I was a four year old who talked my father into buying me a painter’s cap from Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ tour (my mother was less than pleased), to my teenage years and this year we’ll hopefully get some photos of my son at his first parade.

If you’ve never been to any of the Gaspee Days events, I encourage you to attend the Arts & Crafts Festival, Fireworks at Salter’s Grove, reenactment of the Burning of the Gaspee and of course, the Parade. The Events calendar can be found here: http://gaspee.com/GaspeeDaysEvents.htm. The Gaspee Days’ season has always been a part of my life and I hope to continue that tradition with my son, and even though we don’t live right on the parade route, fortunately, Gramma and Grandpa do!

New Study on Meditative Mindfulness and ADHD

(This is cross-posted from my private practice site.)

Sharpbrains.com, one of the sites in our Technology & Helping Kids blogroll, has an article by Dr. David Rabiner in which he reviews some new research on teaching mindfulness meditation to teens and adults, and how study participants with attentional problems were helped by learning and practicing these techniques. The article also provides this summary for how study participants were trained in mindfulness meditation. From the article:

- Mindfulness Training -

Mindfulness meditation is described as involving 3 basic steps: 1) bringing attention to an “attentional anchor” such as breathing; 2) noting that distraction occurs and letting go of the distraction; and, 3) refocusing back to the “attentional anchor”.

This sequence is repeated many times during the course of each meditative session. As the individual becomes better able to maintain focus on the attentional anchor, the notion of “paying attention to attention” is introduced and individuals are encouraged to bring their attention to the present moment frequently during the course of the day.

By directing one’s attention to the process of paying attention, to noticing notice when one becomes distracted, and to refocusing attention when distraction occurs, mindfulness meditation training can be thought of as an “attention training” program. As such, examining the impact of such training on individuals with ADHD becomes a very interesting question to pursue.

The results of the study are encouraging, with 78% of participants reporting an overall reduction in ADHD symptoms. This was only a pilot study, but it’s a good indicator that meditation and mindfulness may play a key role in mental health.

Gonna Watch Some TV

On Sunday night, at 9pm on HBO. I want to see ‘Recount’ because I saw the trailer and it looks good. Laura Dern as Katherine Harris with a Southern accent! I saw Dern in ‘Citizen Ruth’, a very cynical movie about abortion. She played a glue-sniffing pregnant woman. She was great.

I always regarded the 2000 elections as a coup and a national disgrace. Like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the damage is largely unrepaired, with gaping holes in voting security, fairness and organization.

I’ll stay up past my bedtime for this. Just wish I could say to myself that ‘it’s only a movie’.

Whitehouse Casts Vote Against David Hill

Sheldon Whitehouse continues to advocate for more attention to science at the Environmental Protection Agency. In a vote of 10-9, David Hill was rejected as the legal counsel for the EPA. From the Whitehouse press office:

Whitehouse Votes to Reject Bush Appointee for Top Legal Job at EPA

Washington, D.C. In an expression of strong concern over the infiltration of politics into environmental regulation and policy, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined a majority of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today to reject President Bush’s nominee to serve as general counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Committee’s vote was 10 to 9 against David Hill, who now serves as general counsel of the Department of Energy. Whitehouse said Hill’s testimony before the committee and his responses to follow-up questions displayed a lack of candor and failure of leadership.

“EPA is in crisis. Its own career employees, as well as the public at large, believe its leadership has let politics trump its longstanding commitment to protecting the environment and the public health,” Whitehouse said. “At this time, more than ever, we need leadership at EPA that will promote transparent decision-making that is immune both from political interference and from judicial ridicule. I have no confidence that Mr. Hill will provide such leadership at EPA.”

Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island U.S. Attorney and Attorney General, has helped lead the EPW Committee’s investigation into the politicization of decision-making at EPA. He chaired a hearing earlier this month to hear testimony from George Gray, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development, and a panel of scientists. Gray refused to respond to concerns raised by scientists and policymakers that political considerations have dictated decision-making at the agency.

We live in a big, beautiful country that needs our protection and care. Thank you, Sen. Whitehouse, for standing up for better environmental policy.

Some Good News for Once

As soon as I find my glasses I’m going to clip this article from the science section of the New York Times.

“Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain�

When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong. Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that every year is busier and faster, with new things to learn and new challenges. I’m old enough to be over the hill, but I’m still climbing. All my friends are in the same situation. Wasn’t middle age supposed to be boring? Not now it isn’t. But all this mental labor has to pay off…

“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,� Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.�

Okay, now it’s time to turn off the computer and apply my wisdom to the day job.

For Their Country

This year I’ve been within a handshake reach of more politicians than I ever met in my life. John Kerry was at Obama headquarters downtown before the primary, with Linc Chafee and other dignitaries. On election day I was holding an Obama sign next to Myrth York and Sheldon Whitehouse, whom I regret to say were not holding Obama signs.

We want our politicians to meet us face to face. We put so much expectation and hope, and give so much power to the people we elect. But they are only human. Running through an exhausting schedule of speeches and meetings and interviews, with every word liable to be pulled out of context and used as a sound-bite has got to be an ordeal.

In the Tuesday, May 20th issue of the New York Times (pp 20 and 21) are photos of the three major candidates on the campaign trail. Barack Obama and John McCain are shaking hands with some voters and Hillary Clinton is giving a speech from a low stage to a crowd gathered outdoors. Whether we agree with their politics or not, they are brave, they are vulnerable, and they are out there speaking directly to the voters. This is an American tradition.

Those of us who remember the sixties know what it’s like to watch political debate silenced with a bullet. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy all taken from us. George Wallace paralyzed for life. The next two decades brought more shootings of politicians and famous people. This past December Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan.

Anyone who chooses to run for office knows that they could be a target.

It was not a minor slip, or a misunderstanding, when Mike Huckabee said this at an National Rifle Association meeting…

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Republican Mike Huckabee responded to an offstage noise during his speech Friday to the National Rifle Association by suggesting it was Barack Obama diving to the floor because someone had aimed a gun at him.

Hearing a loud noise and interrupting his speech, Huckabee said: “That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He’s getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he — he dove for the floor.”

A weak apology couldn’t undo what he said and what he meant. When words fail, there’s the gun. Memories are still strong. This month Bobby Kennedy is on the cover of Vanity Fair. We have too much history where powerful debate was cut short by violence. I never want to see that happen again.

If Mike Huckabee thinks that the possibility of one of his NRA constituency taking a shot at any of our candidates gives his campaign some extra power, he’s exactly what we don’t need. And if he’s so clueless about recent American history that he didn’t know what he was saying, then he’s got no business in politics.

My Valuable Family

Actually, the stories of gay lovers who are thrilled to be able to legally marry after decades together doesn’t rob me of anything. It gives me a romantic buzz. And as an old Star Trek fan I send George Takei and Brad Altman my best regards. Here is from George’s blog…

The California Supreme Court has ruled that all Californians have a fundamental right to marry the person he or she loves. Brad and I have shared our lives together for over 21 years. We’ve worked in partnership; he manages the business side of my career and I do the performing. We’ve traveled the world together from Europe to Asia to Australia. We’ve shared the good times as well as struggled through the bad. He helped me care for my ailing mother who lived with us for the last years of her life. He is my love and I can’t imagine life without him. Now, we can have the dignity, as well as all the responsibilities, of marriage. We embrace it all heartily.

Check out the rest of it for a few words about second-class citizenship from a man who was confined to an internment camp for being Japanese-American during WWII.

As for destroying heterosexual marriage — it just makes me appreciate mine all the more when someone so eloquently praises ‘the dignity, as well as all the responsibilities, of marriage.’ Sweet.

It’s like one of those Jane Austen novels, where the couple has to outrun and outwit a barrage of social prohibitions before they can finally be together by the last page. And it’s also a vindication of the faith that love doesn’t fade as you get older. I wish I were going to the wedding.

Live long and prosper, guys.