As previously reported, today at noon the 110th session of the US Congress opened, with the main action being the swearing in of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Representative Pelosi gave quite a rousing and statesman-like address, highlighting the main goals of the first 100 hours of the Congress. Meanwhile, a small group of avatars observed a video simulcast of the event as projected into Second Life on the Capitol Hill sim (teleport SLURL).
I have to admit the virtual Capitol Hill is a bit more impressive close-up that it looked over YouTube . I like that the Capitol has no roof and that the dome is semi-transparent, just like our government should be. If only you could teleport into the real Congress and see what your representative was up to.
The opening the Congress was followed by an interesting briefing with Representative George Miller (D – 7th District, CA) conducted by Joanne Colan of the Rocketboom video blog. See the jump for my paraphrasing of Congressman Miller’s remarks and some pictures of the historic event.
UPDATE 1/5/07 1:30PM: Rocketboom has posted their video blog of the event. Nice!
Here are my notes from the audio interview with Representative Miller. Rocketboom will presumably air the complete interview and a transcript later.
Rep. Miller: This is a very historic day: the swearing in of first female Speaker of the House. And this is the first time that the swearing in of members of Congress and a new speaker took place in Second Life.
On Second Life as a Platform for Congress: This is a very different forum for a member of Congress. Also very exciting. It gives us an opportunity to interact with the people we represent and people interested in the US and Congress. This will develop into an important forum for both parties to put forward their ideas, suggestions, proposals.
I’m the canary in the coalmine. As you look into our island, we
have some pavilions behind the chambers that people can go and ask
members of congress about the different issues. Once members interact
with the public this way, they will see that SL is the next frontier on
this kind of interaction. I hope other members of congress will join
SL. I hope that members can use SL to ask questions. I’m interested
in international child labor, slavery, trade agreements, education
policy. We are going to see if members of Congress can use SL to
educate ourselves. I really want to commend speaker pelosi for
On the upcoming Congressional Session: We have a very aggressive agenda. We will dramatically change the relationship between the legislature and lobbyists. When these rules are passed, lobbyists wont be buying meals, arranging travel, or provide gifts for legislators.
We will launch six proposals in the first 100 hours:
- First is to raise minimum wage, which has not been waged for 10 years.
- Next we will deal with the 9/11 commission report. We will seek to implement these proposals.
- We will deal with lowering the cost of college. The interest rates on college loans have doubled. We will cut that in half in next five years.
- We will change the energy policy in this country. Begin by taking royalties owed to public from oil companies and put those into a trust fund for altnerative energy and technological innovations to be green and fight global warming. We will join the international effort to curb global warming.
- Allow stem cell research.
- We will move on owering the cost of pharmaceuticals for the elderly. The federal government should be able to negotiate with large companies over cost of drugs.
On National Security: In the aftermath of 9/11 we saw little coordination between the agencies of the US government. We knew little about cargo, about who was entering country. Agencies weren’t working together. Since 9/11, things have gotten somewhat better. Only now will the intelligence appropriations committee and the intelligence policy committees be joined together. You don’t have to trample on the Constitution to protect this country. One important step: cargo containers will be screened at ports of embarkation, not when they arrive to US ports.
On Minimum Wage: The minimum wage of $5.15 an hour was set 10 years ago. Many states have raised the minimum wage. In San Francisco that is $9.14 an hour, which is still not enough for a family of three to stay above the poverty line. It’s a travesty that we have not sought to increase the minimum wage for those who are working in the least desirable and difficult jobs in this country. Republicans have blocked this legislation. We are going to have a clean vote on this to raise it to $7.50. We will be joined by many Republicans who understand that this is a social justice issue.
On Net Neutrality (my question): Congresswoman Eshoo (D-CA) and Pelosi pushed hard for Net Neutrality. If not for Eshoo, we would not recieve this temporary victory on the [AT&T/BellSouth] merger on Net Neutrality [in the FCC]. This is an important issue. The questions of whether these forums like SL are going to be freely available to individuals is very important. With the Commission we won a partial first victory. But this is going to take more diligence.
The back of the Capitol building, with the semitransparent dome more visible.
Flags were at half-mast in honor of President Gerald Ford’s recent passing.
All in all, quite a nice build.
The Clear Ink organizers announced that the Capitol building sim will be open to the public as of 9AM tomorrow, January 5. Representative Miller promised to appear again in SL sometime next week. More reporting on this event at New World Notes and Business Communicators of SL as well as discussion on the viability of SL for political discourse on the New York Times Blog.