Posted by: bkivey | 18 January 2015

Glitches in the Matrix

There is a school of thought that we are living in a computer simulation. Enough people take the idea seriously that some researchers are looking for clues in the structure of the universe to test the viability of the hypothesis. If we are living in a simulation, it would answer some questions about the need for humans to believe in and serve a higher power. And if we are ever able to construct simulations with self-aware beings, the probability that our universe is a simulation developed by others becomes a near-certainty.

Ever since a certain 1999 movie became popular, wildly improbable events have been termed ‘glitches in the matrix’. I’m aware of three events in the past week that might qualify for that appellation.

US diplomacy completely drops the ball

On 7 January Islamic terrorists killed 17 people and injured 22 others in France. We live in a world where terrorism is Islam’s modus operandi: regrettably the attacks themselves aren’t unusual. A few days later massive marches occurred throughout France in support of freedom of expression. Among the millions of attendees were government leaders or high-ranking officials from some 40 nations. The US, where freedom of expression is a founding principle, sent the US Ambassador to France. Attorney General Eric Holder, who may have been sufficiently senior to quell criticism, was in France, but didn’t attend. The no-show at an event held to denounce terrorism was bad enough; what the US did next was far worse.

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Paris on 15 January to, in his words, ‘share a hug with all Paris’. His speech was followed by folk singer James Taylor performing ‘You’ve Got a Friend’.

I still have bruises on my lower jaw. France is a proud, independent nation that, except for a latent militaristic streak, has contributed greatly to world culture. They helped us get our start as a nation, and with the exception of a certain event in 1986, have mostly stood by us when we needed them. The French Republic sustained a grievous injury, and the Obama Administration treated them like a six-year-old with a skinned knee. Serious people and nations simply don’t act this way. The Administration stepped in the merde, then kicked it in the French face. The US government could not have done a better job of reducing the US to a foolish, contemptible, laughingstock if they’d planned it.

US Attorney General Strikes a Blow for Freedom

The US Attorney General is charged with upholding the US Constitution and the law of the land. The current office holder has done approximately none of that. Like most (or perhaps all) of this Administration’s senior officials, he has shown himself to be a small, petty, corrupt individual who has used his office to persecute political opponents. On Friday 16 January, he actually did something to promote American values.

‘Equitable Sharing’ (DOJ page here) is a Federal program under which local and state law enforcement can seize private assets and use them in their own departments. The seizures don’t even require a warrant. All local law enforcement has to do is say they ‘believe’ criminal activity is occurring, bring in a Federal agency, and private property becomes State property. Local law enforcement is heavily incentivized to manufacture criminal activity out of whole cloth in order to boost their assets. It’s institutionalized corruption.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has forbidden the use of Federal law to enable asset seizure unless criminal activity is actually occurring. There are exceptions, but they cover such a small percentage of seizures that property confiscation under Federal law by local law enforcement is effectively eliminated. Given this Administration’s assault on freedom and founding American values, it’s a fairly big deal. Fair dues, this is a positive act by the Attorney General.

Seahawks Win

A more frivolous example, but the Seattle Seahawks NFC Championship win was a very low-probability event.

I couldn’t watch the game due to work, but picked the game up in the third quarter on the way home. Seattle wasn’t heavily favored, but they were playing at home in front of some of the loudest and most passionate fans in the country, and they had the best defense in the NFL.

Green Bay was handing them their ass.

The unheralded Packer defense stymied the Seattle offense, and forced four turnovers. The Aaron Rodgers helmed Green Bay offense couldn’t quite close the deal, but their kicker was good every time, leading to a 19 – 7 Packer lead with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter and Green Bay with the ball.

That’s where the game stood when I pulled into the grocery store parking lot. In a rational world, no team turns the ball over four times in a championship game and wins. The universe doesn’t allow it. So I went in to buy groceries.

Then, the matrix glitched.

4th Qtr. 2:09 Seattle QB Russell Wilson runs in a 1-yard touchdown. GB 19 SEA 14

4th Qtr. Just over 2 min Seattle recovers onside kick.

4th Qtr. 1:25 Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch scores on a 24 yard run. 2 point conversion is good: QB Wilson throws up a prayer which somehow lands in Jermaine Kearse’s hands at the goal line. GB 19 SEA 22

4th Qtr. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers gets the Packers into field goal range, and they convert to tie. GB 22 SEA 22

OT 3:12 Seahawks win the toss. Wilson throws a rainbow from the 43 to Jermaine Kearse at the 3. Momentum carries him over the goal line to win the game. GB 22 SEA 28

I was unaware that any of this had transpired until halfway through the first quarter of the AFC game when it was announced the winner would face Seattle in the Super Bowl. Say what?! On to the internet!

There’s a Packers fan at a bar I frequent who is, um, colorful, when he watches football. I would have paid real money to be there during the last three minutes of that game. I admit I gave up on the game, but all I have to say now, in homage to radio play-by-play man Steve Raibel, is

Touchdooooown! SEAHAWKS!

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