Baby Jesus Cries

sl-congress.jpgYour tax dollars at work.

International financial markets are in turmoil, gas is pushing $4 a gallon and a recession looms. But don’t worry, folks: The House Energy and Commerce Committee is on the case.

Yesterday, in unwitting observance of April Fools’ Day, the telecommunications subcommittee held a hearing on “online virtual worlds” and the use of cartoon-like characters called avatars.

Surely this, one of the, if not THE first appearances of MMO/VWs before a Congressional committee, was newsworthy and serious.

[Chairman Edward] Markey looked across the room at a jumbo computer screen showing his cartoonish avatar, named EdMarkey Alter. “My avatar actually looks like he’s been working out,” Markey noted approvingly.

Surely, it wasn’t simply an excuse for a public relations exercise.

The lawmakers covered the potential downsides of virtual worlds (recruiting for terrorists, child pornography, human isolation) but much of the hearing served as an infomercial for Second Life. “Virtual worlds,” boasted Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, are “changing the nature of communication itself.” The chairman even allowed him to play a promotional video.

Surely, they had SOME LOGICAL REASON for all this.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) told Markey her suspicion that “the real reason we’re here is so that you can get some pointers on how to get past the seventh level of the World of Warcraft.”

Oh, OK, then.

In case you aren’t already crying along with our infant lord and savior, Terra Nova has the entire thing available. I didn’t post about this yesterday, because, well. You know. No one would have believed it.