LABELS. This was a rather pleasant surprise to me -- a recent poll found that, when presented with an array of words which summarize a range of political values, Americans respond more favorably to the word "progressive" than to the word "capitalism" -- and that this held true for Democrats, Independents and Republicans. It's probably too soon to tell if this is a hiccup response to the scandals on Wall Street, but it represents a tiny glimmer of hope in the face of the knee-jerk "throw the bums out" mood which the media claims has siezed the country. If indeed more people are gravitating toward electoral reform, environmental conservatism, pollution control, same-sex marriage, universal health care, affordable housing, elimination of the death penalty, renewable energy, and rational urban planning (in any combination), this can only be a good thing. Alas, it is only one poll. Call me a hopeful cynic.
OIL. In an interview on the PBS News Hour last night, venerable marine biologist Sylvia Earle pointed out the dangers posed by the Gulf oil spill, not only to humans and wildlife habitat along the coast, but also to the deep sea itself. From the surface to a depth of 300 feet the sea teems with life, an intricate web ranging from invisible plankton to fish, shellfish and marine mammals. For many species, including a number of endangered ones, this is the season for spawning young. Catastrophic decimation of marine populations may be inflicted not only by the surface oil slick, but also by tinier particles of oil broken down by chemical dispersants (and by the toxic dispersants themselves). And it's not as if this is a new threat. As Timothy Egan notes in his description of the Exxon Valdez spill in the Gulf of Alaska, "Amnesia is the American way."
SEX. Thanks to poet and essayist Jayne Lyn Stahl for turning me on (as it were) to the LiveScience website, and specifically to an article called "10 Surprising Sex Statistics". Of the ten, I was intrigued (though not surprised) by numbers 5 and 4, and genuinely surprised by number 3 -- which I thought would be significantly higher. Hmm.