Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Providing First-Rate SecondLife Customer Service

An extremely new resident to the metaverse of SecondLife provides insights.

The hard-working team at Linden Lab seems almost overwhelmed by many things these days. The technical considerations of running a rapidly growing corporation are often a major hurdle to success. When that corporation is so completely intertwined with proprietary software code (Linden Scripting Language), additional limitations arise. Now consider the fact that this software must run on a massive server farm and the unique platform of each client. Add a wild, wild, West component to the expected customer behavior and you get SecondLife. Customer Support requests alone seem to be an overarching concern.

The Residents of SecondLife are dealing with yet another set of issues other than their difficulties getting timely customer support from Linden Lab. Without zoning restrictions and a functioning justice system, the Residents are left to take matters into their own hands. It is fascinating to watch from the sidelines as the software and hardware give birth to a new nation.
Round Table 15745
First let's look at the customer service issue:

Microsoft does have to consider the way Windows will behave on many different hardware configurations. Microsoft does not have to maintain a server farm large enough to accommodate most on-line activities of possibly 25% of all Window's users. Sure they need to have enough computing power to allow software updates, customer support, and other business activities. To meet all this various needs, the MS juggernaut has thousands of employees located in many geographic locations, plainly Linden Lab does not.

The customer service solutions used by many major corporations must eventually be adopted by the team running SecondLife. First, an easily searchable knowledge base must quickly be established. When issues arise with one of the many Mac or Wintel systems I maintain for myself or clients I can quickly search the software maker's accumulated database of issues and answers. Linden Labs needs to move support past the SecondLife Blog and into an easily searchable knowledge base format.

The second solution to new and existing customer grief is nearly as obvious. A Learning Management System (LMS) should be implemented as soon as possible. Design bite-sized training modules and make them available to customers in a logical progression. There would even be some benefit to creating levels of expertise so Residents could achieve measurable results, take a test, and be certified as proficient. Still sounds a little like an approach some company in Redmond implemented after years of trial and error doesn't it?

The job may not require a powerhouse LMS like WebCT, Blackboard, or Desire2Learn but the goals of the system should be similiar. Eliot Masie has set-up the SecondLife Education WIKI, perhaps someone at Linden Lab should take a stroll over there to discuss a collaboration effort.

A third requirement is a basic Customer Relationship Management solution. Trouble ticket numbers, trained customer service representatives, and measured response times pay off in greater customer satisfaction. If this system does not look like it will pay for itself over time than Linden Lab may need to charge a nominal fee for certain services. The Linden Lab customer service issue is already drawing concern from one corporation that wants to join Starwood, Nissan, SONY and the rest.

Again, an SAP, Siebel/Oracle or other major package is probably not necessary but and others offer scalable solutions that are easy enough to implement.

It all depends on how fast Linden Lab really wants to grow and how important acceptance into the business community is to everyone involved. Hobbling along on a song and a prayer will only get an organization so far.

In the next article we will examine several workable solutions to the social issues residents are confronting in SecondLife. The author needs to look over a well-worn copy of The Social Contract, written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Actual SecondLife Customer Service To Do List:

- Fix Mac updater.

- Hold more roundtable meetings at hours people can attend.

- Free members shouldn’t get support outside of very basics that are handled automatically; land owners should get priority over paying customers who don’t own land; higher tier trumps lower tier

- Better information needs to be made available to inworld liaisons, including better FAQ.

- Residents want the ability to see information about their trouble tickets, including abuse complaints.

- A service option for people without payment systems is needed.

- Respond to customer needs, including user to user abuse.

- Support should not be just about help with UI or tech, but real-time in-world help with other people.

- Set Expectations: what can a Resident you expect in terms of a resolution timeframe.

- Don’t charge premium members for support.

- Add documentation, help with better understanding of roles, trouble ticket system to see status of tickets.

- Customer Service as a revenue source is bad.

- People won’t pay for services that have been taken for granted in the basic industry.

- Establish have an efficient tag-team arrangement, i.e. a method of handing off issues to other support staff without losing them.

- Accepting bug reports and dealing with griefers should be an expected, free service.

- Install help or troubleshooting internet connections isn’t necessarily a free service.

- Improve triage of support requests with a dedicated person to either answer or get an answer.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Why Do Business In SecondLife?

In the last posting, Virtual Reality in SecondLife and Beyond, it was suggested that investment firms, TV game shows, travel-related businesses, and even doctors should start building sites in a virtual world such as SecondLife. In this article you are going to learn why these groups need to start exploiting this new medium to reach new clients in a non-traditional format. Kiosks at shopping malls, telemarketing, and television advertisements are simply not the way to reach this Internet audience of over one million people. However, it will take time to get established in the next new medium, just like it took time to learn to do business through a web page.

Exactly how are on-line Trading firms like E*Trade, Scottrade, or TD Ameritrade going to get more business through a virtual storefront? They will grow their businesses the same way brick and mortar storefronts do, by inviting existing customers to interact with them and actively educating a growing crowd of potential new customers. When it comes down to it, people that frequent SecondLife like doing business over the Internet.

Virtual storefronts for cruise ship lines? Aren't cruise ship patrons typically the over-60 crowd, retired and living the good life? WRONG. Cruise ships are attracting more and more younger customers, including singles and families. If a particular cruise line is not attracting this audience, they better start soon.

Mount Cook 0003

Guess who is visiting virtual communities? Young people, especially single people looking to meet people in a new venue. People that live in rural areas. People with a broadband connection. People that like new experiences and meeting new people in an exciting place. Cruise lines have had Internet services for years. Which cruise line will be the first to offer a special cruise on the virtual seas of SecondLife?

Likewise, why would a travel agency want to show the features of an Alaskan cruise to someone that lives 50 miles outside of Des Moines? Do you think people from Iowa actually want to take an exciting vacation to the 49th State?

Would it really make any sense for the Hawaiian Tourist Board to create a simulated version of Kauai, Lanai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and the Big Island in SecondLife? People in other parts of the U.S. or the world would only be able to learn about the experiences they might have in Hawaii that way. How could that possibly convince thousands of people to go diving, mountain climbing, surfing, and enjoying white sand beaches?
Haleakala National Park on Horseback

Right now I do not expect farm implement suppliers like Deere & Co. to be setting up shop in virtual communities. After all, studies show that many people in SecondLife are there because they live in rural locations that do not have much of a nightlife after Main Street closes at 5 o'clock. How could Deere & Co. possibly benefit from letting people in rural communities test drive new tractors and harvesting equipment over virtual farmland?

Virtual game shows, now that is a real stretch. Games shows like Jeopardy or The Price Is Right are places where people compete for prizes and money while everyone gets shown consumer products and services. Multiple corporations pay big money to have all different kinds of products appear on game shows. Car manufacturers, household product makers, and purveyors of holiday vacation packages dominate in the game show business. Do those people really want to reach SecondLife participants who typically do not watch much television?

Now we come to the idea of a virtual consultation. Doctors really only want to meet people that need their services. Medical professionals tend to depend on people that live near their offices. Would it make any sense for a doctor in Maryland to spend an hour every day in SecondLife offering to sit down with new patients and maybe end up helping a sick person that lives outside Topeka or Minot? Why would a doctor researching a disease in a Boston hospital want to interact with people suffering from that same disease that live all over the United States or possibly the world? What potential benefits could come from conducting a medical study where the study participants live all over the place?

Would there really be any value in doing a marketing survey among a million geographically-dispersed virtual game participants?

Why would a major university like Penn State want to attract new students using a virtual college fair?

In the days ahead this site will explore many more avenues for exploiting the virtual community known as SecondLife. The author has compiled a list of virtually hundreds of possible uses for simulation in manufacturing, health care, travel, transportation, and logistics. You can suggest others by sending an email to Who knows? One of your suggestions may actually become a new site you can visit in SecondLife some day soon!

NOTE: This column is part of a series on new developments in virtual reality. The previous article was Virtual Reality in SecondLife and Beyond

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Virtual Reality In SecondLife and Beyond

In the months ahead, many new types of business models will join the global marketplace. Some will be new kiosks in the same old places, like malls, airports, and train stations. In the virtual world supported by SecondLife, car dealerships such as Nissan's latest and news bureaus, including Reuters, are already up and running.

Does anyone remember how long it took many major corporations to establish useful web sites in the 1990s? Marketing executives dismissed the Internet as a passing fad or niche market. Those days are long gone.

According to the latest internet traffic report compiled by ComScore Networks, September 2006 site traffic to alone was 81 MILLION VISITORS. Whew!

The SecondLife virtual world population is over 1 million now, with about 500,000 people having visited in sometime in the past 6 months.


Mesa Verde National Park

Here are a few examples of businesses likely to debut in the near future:

Virtual Investment Houses - stock brokers and on-line trading houses buying and selling real equities, not virtual real estate but actual funds, stocks, and bonds.
Virtual TV Game Shows - along the lines of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune
Virtual Real Estate - selling property out in the real world, actual homes and condos.
Virtual Travel Agencies - selling tours and cruises that go to actual destinations.
Virtual Consultations - make appointments to see real doctors and other specialists
Virtual _____________ - you fill in the blank this time!

Thomas Williams Photo Catalog

The requests to see more of the editor's photographs have led to an update of the Flickr website where a larger sample resides. Thomas Williams Photography

Thomas Williams catalog currently contains over 75,000 high resolution digital images composed all over the world.

Major themes include world capitals, major tourist destinations, parks, flora, fauna, children, and technology. There are also more than 5,000 images of objects ranging from a loaf of bread to the Space Shuttle.

Butterfly 15444

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Prototype Development in SecondLife

Haleakala National Park on Horseback
Data mining with volumetric displays aka The Holodeck

In William Gibson's science fiction thriller, Count Zero, his characters regularly don powerful headsets and jack in to special decks in order to enter a virtual reality. Gibson described this advanced type of volumetric display way back in 1986. This was long before the film series The Matrix was produced but long after television viewers were treated to Star Trek's holodeck.

Japanese viewers and other aficionados of animé animation techniques quickly recognized the similarities between The Matrix films and their beloved animé. Star Trek fans must certainly have appreciated the advances in special effects since the days when Captain Kirk utilized the holodeck on the Enterprise. More recently, movie audiences have witnessed important characters attending conferences in a holographic form, in the movie Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

Up until now most people assumed that the capability of mining a database in virtual reality would remain restricted for many years to the realm of military application science and perhaps labs at Stanford University or MIT. However, an early taste of this experience is now available by combining the use of an inexpensive headset display with an account at SecondLife. As soon as the first search engine opens up a facility in a Second Life community the race will begin. It is quite possible an early version of this experience has already appeared in SecondLife. Certainly you can already go into a storefront and search for products so the advent of a visual search engine cannot be far behind.

The potential uses for virtual reality search capabilities are endless but one purpose deserves special mention. Individuals suffering from a variety of physical handicaps will now have even greater opportunities to succeed in the worlds beyond those their handicaps currently restrict them to. Using voice commands and a headset, it is quite easy to believe that a quadriplegic may find gainful employment in many fields currently beyond their limitations. It is all a matter of training and making the technology available to a user group typically facing significant financial as well as physical restrictions.

The first business to actively facilitate the integration of the handicapped audience into virtual worlds will certainly reap benefits far beyond their initial expectations. Growing up in a family of pilots, military and airline, this author listened to more than a few discussions about the benefits of using flight simulators. Modern flight simulators have become very sophisticated tools. No airline or military pilot is permitted to fly the actual aircraft without spending the required amount of time in the flight simulator designed for that model. Oil tanker captains are required to spend time in ship simulators. The time is now ripe for the introduction of simulators in a wide range of applications beyond the military, aviation, or maritime industry.

Retail store designers are now able to test new retail store layouts with live participants in SecondLife. When explored to the fullest, the concept of beta testing, familiar to computer application developers for decades, can now be carried to many new levels, as soon as advances in virtual worlds are made. New car, truck, train, boat, and spaceship models can be safely tested out by large numbers of the general public, instead of just a few people back at the proving grounds. Virtual tours of new and existing homes have been available for years, in a fashion. But how many new home developers have tested actual new home models in SecondLife, prior to construction of the first prototype?

On the subject of prototypes, what new inventions have yet to be conceived, all for the lack of an affordable tool for creating and sharing the prototype? Of course you may need to sign a confidentiality agreement before I will let you enter my virtual test lab. What will all this do to the time it takes to get a new product to the store shelves, albeit with some guarantee of success in the marketplace?

To be continued...

NOTE: This is the third installment in the series that began with Will Google Become God? The next article is Virtual Reality in SecondLife and Beyond

India, Google, God, and Technology

In no other place on Earth will you find devotion to God more intertwined in daily life than India. Those who practice various Hindu traditions will actually choose a date for a specific action such as marriage or a business deal during a religious festival. For example, business people in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra may choose to initiate a business deal on the fourth day of the festival of Diwali. Others may simply clean up their accounting books on this day, known as Muharat. Stockbrokers may even wait to initiate a particular trade on this day.

Now I know some readers may wonder about where the author is going with this discussion. Those who work in information technology occupations such as computer programmers, network engineers, and database managers are well aware of the important contributions made by individuals whose recent ancestors hail from India. They are often the primary architects of many popular software and hardware tools used by millions of people each day.

Every day in offices all over the world certain people are sought out to provide solutions and innovations for common problems. Any one of these developments may or may not grow into the next important organization, such as Google has become. Perhaps in India right now, there is a young boy or girl who will grow up to become the computer scientist who links all the data in the Internet together with the most advanced hardware to result in an application that emulates what most people think of as God.

This development will stir up extreme reactions in some corners of the universe while others may initially laugh it off as sheer nonsense. As time goes by more and more people will grow to rely on this new application for an increasing number of daily tasks. Some may use this new all-powerful tool to wake them up in the morning or to provide them with entertainment. Others will use this tool to link themselves up with people of like persuasion. Just like with Google today, people will pose questions to this new user interface and expect to be shown the correct answer or set of answers day after day. Hundred of thousands may actually ask this new entity to choose their new husband or wife for them. Certainly they will also expect to be provided with the correct date for the auspicious occasion to follow.

As a result of all this devotion that tool or set of tools will grow more powerful and become more prevalent with each passing day. Eventually that tool will be smarter than our most skilled surgeons and depended on to remotely operate robotic surgical systems. It will guide other robots that assemble or repair cars, computers and even design new tools. In the same manner that a computer chip at Intel designed the next generation computer chip, this new tool will become self-enhancing, self replicating, if you will.

Millions will eventually sing the praises of this new technology-based solution in forums far and wide. They may hesitate to call it God for a century or more after it appears among them. In fact, they may never choose to think of it as a God at all but that is exactly how they will use it in their daily lives. When we use a notion to guide us in our day-to-day existence, when we pay homage to it over and over, when we sing the praises of it far and wide, we are worshipping that thing. Whatever it is.

All this will happen, it is only a matter of time. It is both frightening and wonderful to imagine what this new tool will be capable of achieving. Certainly it will be capable of translating every language into every other language. Without a doubt it will accurately predict earthquakes, weather phenomena, and the impact of man on earth's ecosystem. It could finally allow hunger and poverty to be eliminated. It may even determine a method to bring about lasting world peace.

The only concern left up to humans may one day be how to stop this new machine from deciding that humans are a threat to the earth and perhaps no longer necessary.

This gives you a whole new perspective on Google now doesn't it?

Author's Note: This is the second installment in this series. The next installment is available at Prototype Development in SecondLife. The first article was Will Google Become God

Interesting Note: A man named Ragu caused me to think of all this with his simple posting Can Google Get Gods Mind, placed on a Google Blog page.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Will Google Become God?

On his blog posting Can Google Get Gods Mind Ragu asks a mysterious question that actually hints at the future of the Internet. My initial response was:

Google is an early entity on the path to universal knowledge. In the near future there will be Internet sites with such a vast store of knowledge and easy access that some people will literally worship them. Arthur C. Clarke and other science fiction writers have written about this. Many people will achieve a level of immortality by linking their personal databases with a virtual entity such as those found in Second Life. People will be able to talk with them for years after their physical bodies are gone.

Here is the remainder of that thought, in case people are interested in exploring the topic in greater detail.

Virtual Reality (VR) has held the public interest in cinema, television, and literature since the 1980s. Movies like the Matrix series, television shows such as VR.5 and books like William Gibson's Necromancer were extremely popular. The concept still attracts millions with online games and sites including SecondLife. Nevertheless these developments only represent the cusp of an incredible phenomena that virtual reality will become in the decades ahead.

Rather than cloning physical forms, technically savvy individuals will soon offer willing participants a method to upload themselves into vast permanent databases. All the data a person has generated in a lifetime will be coupled with a virtual entity that looks and sounds exactly like the original living being. Of course memory, smells, and other mental constructs will not be integrated for many more decades but eventually even these will become a part of one's virtual construct.

Search engines like Google will allow individuals to search virtual worlds for people that look and think like they do. The foundations of this experience are coming together at sites like MySpace. Online dating sites are slowly getting more sophisticated. Online education centers are getting closer to providing a true virtual classroom experience. Virtual phone booths and conference rooms are now only a matter of bandwidth and some slight tweaking of holographic imagery away from reality.

When these developments mature, and they definitely will, the Internet will allow people to worship in virtual spiritual centers, work in virtual office spaces, and die in virtual hospices. In fact, if a person does not want to die, their virtual entity will be permitted to continue living and even grow more powerful long after their physical body dies.

Babies will be born before a virtual audience, some will not even be real babies but entirely fictional children, born to childless virtual couples or corporations or religions. An advertising firm recently created a fake teen online site for just that purpose. Eventually someone at Google or the next major web corporation will create a virtual baby that is all-knowing and all-seeing and everlasting. Global surveillance systems tied to all-encompassing databases, all stored in a bomb-proof data center deep under some mountain, will support this new messiah.

Laugh now in private while you still can but even today you cannot imagine the amount of your daily activities visible to vast security agencies like the National Security Agency in the United States. Super computers at the NSA and Google will look like the IBM 8086 computer looks to us now.

When this does happen you can expect to find people sitting at their computers, and then inside their computers, watching and waiting for a signal, a sign, or any clue that this great entity, the Virtual God in the Internet, is shining a light in their direction. Until that day comes they will worship this great Virtual God hoping for a cure, a job, or a even just a meal to come their way.

Author's Note: This is the first article in the series. The second article can be found at India God Google and Technology.

Weird News: Cell Phone Infertility, Willing Prisoner, and Election Fraud

Three strange but true news articles about the world around us:

Cell Phone Infertility

The British tell us that constantly talking on cell phones causes a decrease in fertility in men. Considering the growing threat posed by people using the cell phone while driving their cars, this may not be bad news. In the long run perhaps survival of the fittest means slowly weeding out crazy drivers.

Prisoner Refuses Freedom

Here we have a true story about a German man imprisoned for 34 years that does not want to leave when his sentence is completed. To add to the absurdity of the situation German prisoners are not required to leave prison at the end of their term.

Computers To Decide Election

Finally we read about a definitive new study which says machines will decide who wins the upcoming elections in the United States. The Diebold Corporation, the leading maker of electronic voting machines, has the ability to alter election results. The leaders of Diebold profess to be conservative Republicans so it becomes an easy guess which way they will change the votes.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R-Maryland), a Republican running for reelection, advised residents to vote by absentee ballot because he had no confidence in the machines.

"I don't care if we paid half a billion dollars or $1 billion," Ehrlich said. "If it's going to put the election at risk, there's no price tag for a phony election or a fraudulent election."

Has anyone else read Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle? It contains a very precise description of how U.S. ballot boxes were routinely stuffed at the start of the last century. Given the opportunity, political parties will do absolutely anything to stay in power.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

How To Invest (or Buy Anything)

There are pros and cons about getting advice about an investment from a person who already owns that stock, bond, or fund. However, it also strikes me as funny to buy a product from someone who does not use the product. I know there are conflict of interest laws out there. I can understand why a guy like Jim Cramer might get in trouble if he bought stocks just before he recommended them to a hundred thousand or more viewers. I realize financial industry insiders need to be careful about what they say to potential investors.

On the other hand, people who do not own a stock are not likely to be as thorough about researching that investment. What does it matter to them? Oh, yes, they have a reputation to uphold. A reputation based on taking as little risk as possible and hoping as many people as possible will believe them every time.

My retirement strategy has always been different from the stampeding hordes. I use primarily the same strategy for investing that I use for big ticket purchases. After all, several hundred shares of most stock IS a big ticket purchase, at least for a bloke like myself.

Before I buy a product I talk to other people that have purchased that product. I read multiple reviews from people that actually got their hands on the product. I look up sales figures for a product. I typically will not buy a product until it has been on the market at least a year. I wait until I can get the best price, from a reputable dealer that is! Finally, I read the documentation that comes with the product. Yes, I read the owner's manuals for my cars, cameras, computers, and audio equipment. (I must confess here; I write technical manuals for a living so reading the manual is a best practice in my field!)

When I get to the store I do not grab the product off the shelf and go to the cashier. Six trips to southeast Asia (India, Thailand, and Singapore) taught me to use the staff provided in retail stores as a key benefit. In those places, at least in the past, the clerks literally force fantastic customer service on a potential buyer. They absolutely insist on describing all features, comparing a product with similar products, and reciting the specifications from heart. If you appear to be prepared to buy the product, they usually insist on carefully opening the box to make sure every part and all paperwork is included. In addition, they will gladly show you every possible accessory for a product that they have in stock. The whole time they perform these services they remain calm and professional about every single step. When was the last time you received this level of service in a store in the U.S. or Europe?

I expect very much the same routine when I buy a security or fund. I realize corporate web sites and industry analysts have to provide me with similar services, but if they do not do it efficiently and pleasantly, I do not buy the stock, fund, or bond. In the case of very public products or services, I literally conduct an investigation of the retail outlets. I go in and talk with bankers at several locations before I buy a bank stock. I go to the classy bar near a brokerage house at 6 o'clock in the evening. I went to several outlets of a computer store before I invested in that manufacturer (okay, okay, it was Apple Computer, Inc. AAPL, Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. MER, and Bank of America Corporation BAC).

I also visited their biggest competitors and thought long and hard about the different experiences, if any. In some cases, I readily admit, I was lucky enough to consult for some of the firms that I later invested in. In many other cases, I looked around the businesses where I consult and noticed where they were spending their money.

In the cases of government contracts, I looked around just as carefully. My tax money is my money all the same, I just get little say where it is spent. Nevertheless, I can learn where tax money goes and invest in that direction right when the big contracts get awarded. Most government contract awards are public information that can be located easily if you try. The rest of the money goes to Halliburton anyway.

Whenever possible, I buy the product or a service from the business I plan to invest in. I call the Customer Service desk with a tough question. (Another confession: I train customer service representatives at large corporations.)

Finally, when I buy something for a large sum of money, I plan to keep that product for at least a year, if not many years. If the floor model is broken, I will never buy that product. If the investment has not done well in recent years, I am just as unlikely to invest my money there. There are exceptions, but even an IPO stock must have a business with a solid reputation behind it.

My buying methods are not easy to emulate. Solid purchase decisions require hard work to get a substantial return on investment. ROI is what it is all about for me. I cannot expect to depend on a product or retire securely with anything less.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Day The Constitution Died

Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. - Henry David Thoreau

The Republican Congress and the White House just passed a law that suspended the principle of habeas corpus. Called the Military Commissions Act of 2006, this law virtually eliminated the fundamental principle every American child is taught in grade school. As Mr. Bush signed this bill into law he smiled. He smiled because he knew he had just eliminated each American's right to a fair trial.

If you eliminate the right to a fair trial for even one class of people living on U.S. soil you eliminate the basic principle established by the people that founded the United States of America. This country was created by people who wanted to live in a place where justice was upheld. The Republicans have torn away the last shred of decency the United States once held up to differentiate itself from the other bloody regimes found on Earth. Bush and Hastert and all the rest have now made it legal to imprison people and torture people without a fair trial.

We have been the operators of notorious illegal torture chambers for years. Every American knows this is true. Now we have made it legal for our leaders to disappear any person in any country on earth and lock these people up with no evidence, no trial, and no rights whatsoever. How soon will it be before every country on earth adopts the same guidelines? The Geneva Conventions have been shredded by the leaders of the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln is all but forgotten by the GOP leadership.

Do not point fingers at George Bush or Dick Cheney or Dennis Hastert or Attorney General Gonzales alone. Just because a medical doctor named Frist approves of torture does not make him solely responsible. Senator John McCain, a man subjected to years of torture himself in Vietnam, also voted to allow Bush to torture prisoners but he is not alone.

You, yes YOU, have allowed YOUR leaders to DESTROY YOUR United States Constitution. You have done nothing to stop them while they built concentration camps in Eastern Europe, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Texas. Yes, even in Texas, Halliburton has almost finished the construction of new American Gulags in the heart of Texas. But it does not matter where the torture takes place, YOU allowed it and YOU can expect to reap the harvest of violence YOU have sown. Now watch silently as all this government-sanctioned violence begets a scourge of YOUR own creation.

Through the acts of our own citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan we have become the gods molding our own enemies out of sand. We trained and equipped Bin Laden in Afghanistan many years ago. We train young farm boys to shoot first and ask no questions later. In our desperation we recruit criminals off our own streets that later rape and murder the wives of the people we supposedly liberated. Nearly 20% of the latest U.S. Army recruits have criminal records. Now we have legalized the same acts performed at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Is it any wonder that Iraqi brothers and fathers shoot our young men and plant bombs under the roads our boys travel?

It is only going to get worse, day after day. And it will spread like a wildfire through dry timber.

We now imagine we are at the bottom of this slippery slope into evil but in reality we have only begun to trod down this murderous path. Americans, do not listen to the men who tell you they are simply trying to bring justice to the perpetrators of 9/11. It has been 5 years since that day and no serious effort has been made to clean up Waziristan or stop the flow of money from the Middle East to the madrassas training them. No one is listening to the U.S. Generals pleas for help. Almost no cargo coming into the U.S is being inspected. Most of all, not one serious step has been made by the U.S. in the direction of changing the dire situation faced by millions of poor in countries all over the world, regardless of what religion they believe in.

Why do you think a man who loans $100 to millions of poor Bangladeshi women was recently given the Nobel PEACE Prize? Poverty, people, POVERTY, STARVATION, LACK OF WATER, LACK OF HEALTH CARE, these are the ultimate roots of all violence. Meanwhile, the U.S. wastes trillions of dollars on bombs and bullets and achieves no peace whatsoever, in fact, we only create more enemies.

When you fill up your tank with fuel you are paying for the lessons given to suicide bombers, it is that simple, people. When you support the Iraq War, not the troops but idea of an illegal war, you are sowing the seeds of the next suicide attack somewhere in the world. When you sit back and allow your leaders, the Republicans in Congress and the White House, to pass laws that completely destroy the Constitution, you might as well forget about any bright future for your children or for the entire planet.

Mr. Bush is correct when he says this war will continue for a generation. It is also destroying a generation of men and women all over the Earth, right now. Is anyone else willing to walk to their polling place and vote for a change to all this corruption, injustice, and pointless violence?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

House GOP Foley Cover-Up

Apparently the House Ethics Committee considers the Foley Scandal a matter of national security. They are only holding Closed Door hearings. Someone still needs to tell House Leader Dennis Hastert that Mark Foley has already come out of the closet.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What The Oil and Power Companies Do Not Want You To Know

There is a shortage of oil refining capacity yet the oil industry, awash in record profits, refuses to build new refineries. Why should Exxon, BP, Shell and other oil firms expand refining capacity when shortages keep the prices of oil products high?

There is a shortage of the refined silicon products used to make solar panels and microchips. Why should Dow Corning, Applied Materials, and Mitsubishi Materials invest in more capacity when the price of silicon keeps going up?

Why is it taking so long for U.S. car manufacturers to catch up with Toyota and Honda in the manufacture of hybrid cars and trucks? Why are Ford, GM, Toyota, and Honda limiting manufacture of such successful models such as the Toyota Priius and Honda Accord hybrid vehicles?

Why is the wind power industry, controlled by Siemens, GE and Mitsubishi, growing so slowly? These firms sell wind turbines but they also sell other types of turbines that run on gas, oil, and nuclear energy.

Why are government incentives for energy-saving products, including solar panels and hybrid cars, disappearing?

When you drive past huge new housing developments in Florida, Virginia, California, and Nevada what is missing? Why do none of these houses come with any solar energy devices?

The answer to all these questions is oil.

The oil industry may claim to be making investments in alternative energy. BP has BP Solar, they bought it from Exxon years ago. They invest a very small percentage of their massive profits in BP Solar. The same is true for Shell Solar. Why not invest more?

Exxon currently has no solar energy investments. In fact Exxon lobbyists regularly make a point of telling politicians how little solar energy contributes to the U.S. energy consumption. When was the last time you heard anything in the U.S. about tidal energy, power from the ocean tidal movement?

The answer is oil.

The major U.S. power companies all seem to have their little showcase solar or wind energy projects but do very little to expand these projects. They also spend very little to get U.S. governments to provide them with more incentives. Certainly not what they spend to get incentives for oil, natural gas, nuclear, or coal passed by members of Congress.

Any decline in energy consumption caused by alternative energy scares the major energy retailers. The major energy producers have an industry-wide plan, certainly not public, to combat the growth of alternative energy and even stop energy efficiency efforts. They simply have too much money invested in fossil fuel production they would lose if alternative energy sources were used seriously. The global environment is dying and the companies where you spend most of your money are purposely doing little or nothing to stop it. They would rather die selling you products made from oil, coal, plutonium, and gas than help you to switch. Think about it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What North Korea's Nuclear Test Really Means

North Korea's underground nuclear test proved more than that nation's capability to detonate a 15 kiloton thermonuclear weapon. Pyongyang's nuclear test proves a nation that is an economic failure can still threaten a superpower. Korea's test also demonstrates the weakness of that superpower. The United States is powerless to do anything more than increase the suffering of the starving North Koreans.
Nuclear Blast 1945
Naval blockades, increased sanctions, and UN declarations will only increase the problem of starvation across North Korea. North Korean leaders will continue to finance a life of luxury using counterfeit U.S. $100 bills, also known as supernotes. South Korean citizens that can afford to will likely seek to leave the peninsula, even though the targets of North Korean weapons are known to be the Alaskan oil fields, Pearl Harbor, and perhaps Seattle (Note: Do not try to use logic to understand the thoughts of Kim Jong-il. A Ouija board works better.)

Russia and China will probably do nothing just because the world diplomatic community is so disconnected. You never remove the punching bag from the gym. The United States diplomatic efforts, if you could call them that, have been so focused on protecting Israel from perceived Iranian threats that the entire U.S. Western flank is now exposed. The U.S. anti-ballistic missile shield has had maybe one successful test, a test so contrived that it could barely fail. All the other recent missile shield tests were utter failures. Of course North Korea's missile tests have not fared much better. However, it only takes one nuclear warhead to spoil your entire day.

Bush and Cheney could not be bothered to deal with Korea right now. They are too busy raising millions to pay for the outrageous Republican campaign expenses. With Tom Delay out of the picture the GOP is having a hard time raising money for negative campaign ads. This has not stopped the Vice-President from going around the country scaring people. Congress is too busy trying to cover the tracks of their former pedophile GOP leader Foley, activities they knew about for more than 5 years. Finally, high-ranking assistant to Mr. Bush resigned on Friday night, Susan Ralston was taking money from Jack Abramoff. Dirty politicians are too busy to pay attention to nuclear weapons tests.

Donald Rumsfeld over at the Pentagon is too busy trying to hold onto his job as Secretary of Defense. A job Rumsfeld has done so poorly the U.S. military is now too weak to respond to Korea in any significant manner.

Looking at how Bush responded to the attacks of September, 11, 2001 here is how the White House will respond to North Korea's nuclear test:

- Cheney will go to CIA headquarters and find evidence that North Korea's bomb was actually made in Iran.
-Tony Blair will find more evidence to prove Iran has proven WMD stocks.
- Secretary of State Rice will go to the United Nations to present this evidence.
- The United Nations will fail to approve an invasion of Iran in order to stop North Korea.
- The U.S. military will go ahead alone with the plans to invade Iran that were created years ago.
- The U.S. newspapers and television, led by Fox News will report that all the evidence linking Iran to North Korea is completely true.
- The White House will institute an emergency draft, without Congressional approval, after the elections, of course.
- More Americans will die in combat.
- The U.S. debt will increase from 8 trillion to 10 trillion dollars.
- Israel will drop more cluster bombs on the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and the West Bank while no attention is being paid to Palestine.

How quickly the world has forgotten what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It all makes you want to sit back and listen to Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World doesn't it?

Friday, October 06, 2006

North Korea and Iran are not the biggest nuclear threats

Because of U.S. efforts, the attention of world leaders are today focused on Iran. The United States wants stiff sanctions against Iran or even an invasion, in order to put a stop to Iran's nuclear program. No matter what takes place in the UN Security Council chambers; India, China, and many nations of the European Union will continue to purchase oil from Iran. They have no alternative. There simply is no other source of that quantity of petroleum on the world market today.

North Korea is also drawing increasing concern.

It is noble to speak out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, the U.S. is not really in a position to lead this discussion. Everyone understands the United States maintains the largest nuclear arsenal. Educated people know that the United States is the only nation to have used nuclear technology during a time of conflict. Depleted Uranium(DU) weapons must be included in this discussion. Most nations believe the U.S. is developing more types of nuclear weapons every year. Russia and China are certainly in this club, along with France, Israel, Pakistan, and India.

The only time any significant progress was made to reduce the world's nuclear arsenal was during the START Treaty negotiations.

START negotiations began in 1982.

The United States sought a treaty that would provide for "deep reductions" in U.S. and Soviet strategic offensive nuclear forces, equal limits on the two sides, and "effective verification." Talks were suspended in 1983, when the Soviets walked out in protest over U.S. intermediate-range missile deployments in Europe. Negotiations resumed in 1985 and Presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin concluded them in July 1991. On May 23, 1992, a protocol was signed between the U.S. and the four Soviet successor states that have weapons covered by START -- Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

START Timeline.

The START II Treaty went a step further.

If the nations of the world were truly serious about reducing the threat of nuclear holocaust, similar bilateral negotiations and inspections would need to be initiated. Until this step begins, any state that wants to develop and maintain nuclear weapons, including China, France, United States, UK, North Korea, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and others, will be free to do so at their discretion. In fact, some nations that do not currently have a nuclear weapons program may feel compelled to start one or at least purchase a few missiles from current manufacturers.

No amount of posturing before international institutions such as the United Nations will bring about any meaningful reduction in the threat posed by nuclear proliferation. In fact, most nations will continue to remain suspicious of the motives of any nation that calls for the elimination of any other nation's nuclear science efforts. This suspicion only grows when nations continue to market nuclear energy developments as aggressively as do the United States and Russia.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Redemption Song

Words by Bob Marley

Old pirates yes they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I from the
Bottom less pit
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the almighty
We forward in this generation triumphantly
All I ever had is songs of freedom
Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom
Cause all I ever had redemption songs, redemption songs

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look
Some say it's just a part of it
We've got to fulfill the book

Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom
Cause all I ever had, redemption songs, redemption songs, redemption songs

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look
Yes some say it's just part of it
We've got to fulfill the book

Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom
Cause all I ever had, redemption songs
All I ever had, redemption songs
These songs of freedom, songs of freedom

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cardinal Hastert Must Go Along With Father Foley

Cardinal Hastert knew one of his flock was messing around with little boys. On several occasions leaders of various congregations under the control of Hastert clued him in to Father Foley's pedophiliac tendencies. Failure to investigate possible violations of obscenity laws is unacceptable. These are no misdemeanors Cardinal Hastert was covering up, sending obscene emails to a minor is a felony offense, even for great leaders. Father Foley was especially in the spotlight, given his role on the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Foley was supposedly leading the charge against sexual predators. Sounds like the fox was in the henhouse once again.

People clearly understood Mr. Foley was gay way back when he first ran for Congress, not that there is anything wrong with that... However pedophile behavior runs deep in the church and there are plenty of experts in the halls of Congress who know the difference between pedophiles and homosexuals. Homosexuals are allowed to work in Congress or even the White House. Pedophiles do not belong in the legislature.

Now the legal beagles are trying to cover up Father Foley's attraction to little boys by advising him to admit to a drinking problem. That sounds like the Pink Floyd defense, I don't know, I was really drunk at the time.* Suddenly we now learn from David Roth that Congressman Foley was molested by a Catholic priest. How did the lead singer from Van Halen get tied into this mess? Just kidding, David Lee Roth and David Roth are apparently two birds of a different feather. Out of the kettle and into the fire or so they say. Before this is all over you can expect to see the resignations of several top Republican officials. Say, there is an election coming up in November, right? This would be a good time to clean House. Here is a prime opportunity to get those rat nests out of the House Torture Chambers.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. Sir Walter Scott would say.

*From the song "Money", found on the rock band Pink Floyd release The Dark Side of the Moon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bush Republicans: Hoisted By Their Own Petards

Too many observers are portraying the recent news in Washington, DC, Afghanistan, and Iraq as an unfortunate series of events for the Republican Party, Mr. Cheney, and Mr. Bush. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Representative Mark Foley has been chasing young boys around the Capitol for years. The GOP leadership simply found it more useful to ignore Foley's disgraceful behavior. This is hardly surprising given the Republican leadership's long track record of ignoring the obvious.

They ignored the problems in the elections of 2000 and 2004. They ignored warnings of the threat of Al Qaeda prior to September, 11, 2001. They ignored the president's authorization of torture and establishment of concentration camps in Asia, Europe, and Cuba. They ignored the unfinished war in Afghanistan. They ignored experts that clearly indicated the evidence of WMD's in Iraq was false. They ignored the U.S. generals when they said more troops and better equipment would be needed to steal Iraq's oil.

Republicans still ignore the pattern of terrorist attacks in cities all over the world. They continue to ignore the massive increase in violence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House ignores the people making plans in their hideouts outside Wana, Nushki, and Miram Shah, Pakistan. Who cares that Anbar Province is a training ground for the next suicide bombers preparing to kill Americans? All that matters is that we continue to control the U.S. government and keep money flowing into the pockets of our military corporations and political donors. Ignore the growing threats behind the curtain, Dorothy.

Everything is just alright. Here in the United States we are all safe from harm and what happens in the rest of the world does not matter. Oil is cheap again, right? Fill up your SUV, dial a friend on your cell phone, and forget about the pedophiles, liars, torturers you elected to office. Wait a second, do not ignore us, we need your vote in November. We need you to give us more time to increase the national debt and send your children off to die in our wars overseas. We need more time to ignore the violence in schools and bad roads and growing poverty in our land. We need more time to give the world more reasons to hate the United States of America.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Crazy Baldheads

Words by Robert Nesta Marley

Them crazy, them crazy
We gonna chase those crazy
Baldheads out of town
Chase those crazy baldheads
Out of town

I and I build a cabin
I and I plant the corn
Didn't my people before me
Slave for this country
Now you look me with a scorn
Then you eat up all my corn

We gonna chase those crazy baldheads
Chase them crazy
Chase those crazy baldheads out of town

Build your penitentiary, we build your schools
Brainwash education to make us the fools
Hate is your reward for our love
Telling us of your God above

We gonna chase those crazy
Chase those crazy bunkheads
Chase those crazy baldheads out of town

Here comes the conman
Coming with his con plan
We won't take no bribe, we got stay alive

We gonna chase those crazy
Chase those crazy baldheads
Chase those crazy baldheads out of town