A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Plain of Pillars

Before I started blogging I used to post to BBSs (online "forums") with some regularity. I still do from time to time. At each of the three that became hangouts for me, there was inevitably a poster who I disagreed with but came to respect; one can recognize an intelligent and fair-minded opponent even if one believes they’re usually dead wrong. Over at The Neutral Zone it was a guy named Demiurge, who with one well-made argument changed my position on National Missile Defense forever. In EverQuest’s NGD Forum it was Pravus; he and I were constant allies over there as long as the conversation didn’t turn to politics.

In my friend Chris O’Connor’s BookTalk forums, the role is increasingly filled by Niall. The guy is something of a liberal – which isn’t entirely his fault, being Foreignian and all – but he makes clear, civil arguments and is actually quite thoughtful. Some of his positions remind me a bit of Christopher Hitchens (which will probably appall him, but there it is). Anyway, Niall has started blogging: Plain of Pillars is his site, and it comes to you with The Zoo’s official stamp of approval … and a "Warning: Liberal Contents" label.

Go visit Niall’s site. Those who found our discussion on WP interesting will find more of his thoughts on the subject in this post. And I urge my more conservative readers to be civil if they visit Plain of Pillars; what you say there reflects on The Zoo as well as on yourself.



Monday, December 12, 2005

Likud and Labor Leaders Join Kadima

Just a quick update today on last week's post concerning moderate politics in the US and Israel. For those who are foggy on Israeli politics, the major parties are Labor (liberal), Likud (conservative), and now Kadima (centrist). There is a wide scattering of smaller parties, representing everyone from communists to theocrats to greens, but the three mentioned above are the biggies.

Less than two weeks after long-time Labor leader and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres joined Kadima, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has left Likud to do the same. Says Mofaz:

"The Likud party ... is growing away from me and, to my sorrow, is moving in the direction of what we call the right-wing extremists of the political map," Mofaz said. "When it became clear that the Likud movement was becoming an extremist party, I decided that this was not my way."

Current estimates have Kadima winning about 40 of 120 parliment seats in Israel's March elections. The way momentum is swinging right now, I wouldn't be surprised to see it actually be as high as 60 (and 61 would give them an outright majority). Exciting stuff, if your an extremeist-hating political geek.



Friday, December 09, 2005


At 6:13 am today The Zoo had it's 50,000th visitor! Horray! Said visitor is a comcast.net user and viewed two pages.

The numbers average out to 2,300 visitors a month - or 84 per day - over the last 20 months. Not bad, considering that The Zoo is more of an "online journal" than a competively visitor-seeking blog. In the past I've toyed with the idea of joining Blogcritics to make this site more visible, but it's a time commitment I'm not sure I'm willing to take on right now.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who has visited and commented over the past year and a half! Your time and effort are appreciated, and I sincerely hope you've found what you read here to be entertaining and valuable.



Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The American Moderate Party

Let's chop up political parties, shall we?

The Far Right (the "rightmost" 1/3 of Republicans and The Constitution Party; think Bill Frist)

The Center-Right (the central 1/3 of Republicans, many Libertarians, and some Independents; think President Bush)

The Moderate Right (the "leftmost" 1/3 of Republicans, some Libertarians, and many Independents; think Rudy Giuliani)

The Moderate Left (the "rightmost" 1/3 of Democrats, a few Libertarians, and many Independents; think Joe Lieberman)

The Center-Left (the central 1/3 of Democrats, some Independents, and a few Greens; think Hillary Clinton)

The Far Left (the "leftmost" 1/3 of Democrats, most Greens, and The Socialist Party; think Howard Dean)

Several times in the past, reader Puppy Pincher and I discussed what it might be like if the US had a strong third party. A party made up of The Moderate Right, The Moderate Left, much of the Center-Right, and at least some of the Center-Left. I'd estimate that about 65% of American voters would belong to such a party (ideologically, at least). I wonder if we'd ever be able to bring something like that together ... and if people would actually have the wherewithal to cross party lines and vote for its candidates.

John Avlon writes an interesting article for FNC's Views section today about how Ariel Sharon is doing something very much like what I've described to Israeli politics. Money quote:

Despite the risks, Sharon’s political strategy seems solid: initial polls after the announcement show “Forward” winning a hypothetical 33 seats in the upcoming March elections, supported by 14 moderate members of Labor and Likud including former Jerusalem Mayor and current Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olhmert. Likud would unceremoniously drop from 40 seats to a paltry 15, indicating the relative balance of power even within Likud between its centrist and right-wing members.

Sharon’s insight is that while moderate Likud and Labor Party members may have been less organized and influential within their own parties, they constituted a majority within the electorate as a whole — especially if led by a popular national political leader.

But all this is happening a half a world away — what relevance does Sharon’s move have for U.S. politics? Plenty.

Current polls show centrists leading the 2008 presidential pack, most notably Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Between them, they possess more than 50 percent of the Republican primary voter support, despite the fact that these two men are strenuously opposed by certain factions on the far right.

I watch Israeli politics because, well, lets face it: It's the frickin' wild west over there and I want to see who they're going to pin the star on next. But this one looks like it might be different. Can Sharon really pull the carpet out from beneath the extreme left and the extreme right? If the voters give Kadima an actual mandate - something seldom seen in Israeli politics - what will that do the Likud and Labor hardliners? And given the growing frustration with professional partisans here in America, what might it mean for our own elections coming in 2008?

Stay tuned.



Thursday, December 01, 2005

“Peanut Butter Jelly Time” Explained

So I’m watching Adult Swim last night as I’m falling asleep; my usual routine has me in bed around 11 pm with the TV programmed to turn itself off at midnight, and I rarely stay awake long enough to see whichever show is starting at 11:30. But last night I got to bed late because I was playing Civilization IV (just one more turn!) and I caught the funniest frickin’ commercial I’ve ever seen: Brian from Family Guy in a banana costume doing a rendition of The Buckwheat Boy’s “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”. I damn near peed my pants.

Kevin of THEORY.ISTHEREASON has an explanation of how all this started; the whole “dancing banana set to Peanut Butter Jelly Time” thing was apparently a big Internet culture phenomenon a few years back. Yeah, I missed that one too, but here is a link to the original video from eBaum’s World.

Brian’s interpretation (or Seth Green’s, if your nitpicky) is way better. He, you know, captures the very soul of the thing. I’m gonna have to get a little Peanut Butter Jelly Brian to use as my online avatar. Yep.