Fundraiser Update: Target Met! Long Live the Target

I know, it doesn’t look like it. Visit the legal GoFundMe, and you’ll see the current total is $79,760. And yet I said earlier that

As I type this, the legal GoFundMe sits at $79,650. Increase that above to $79,950, and I’ll switch from playing Super Mario World to Super Mario World Randomizer at the “Way Cool” difficulty on the 26th.

Some basic math reveals $79,760 is below $79,950, apparently well short of the goal. The missing piece is the very next sentence:

If you insist on donating only to FtB, instead of everyone impacted by Richard Carrier’s lawsuit, I’ll still count your donation towards that $79,950.

And PZ informs me that the PayPal link has raised a whopping $436.98 in one day! That math easily brings the combined total above $79,950, so it’s official. I’m playing Super Mario World Randomizer, thanks to your generosity!

But it’s going to be a pretty boring fundraiser if we hit all our goals in 24 hours. Thankfully, as I hinted at last time, I have quite a bit in reserve. Ever heard of a “Kaizo” game? Wikipedia has.

Kaizo Mario World, also known as Asshole Mario, is a series of three ROM hacks of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game Super Mario World, created by T. Takemoto. The term “Kaizo Mario World” is a shortened form of Jisaku no Kaizō Mario (Super Mario World) o Yūjin ni Play Saseru. The series was created by Takemoto for his friend R. Kiba.

Kaizo Mario World features extremely difficult level designs on the Super Mario World engine. The series is notable for deliberately breaking all normal rules of “accepted” level design, and introduced many staples of later Kaizo hacks, such as placing hidden blocks where the player is likely to jump, extremely fast autoscrollers, dying after the goal post and various other traps. This cruelty and the resulting frustration, as well as the skill level required, is both the purpose of the hacks and the appeal of any Let’s Play videos made of them.

The original hack was so popular that “Kaizo” became a generic term to mean any game mod that includes new levels and significantly amps up the difficulty of the original. As the name implies, Princess Kaizo Land is a kaizo game starring Princess Peach that’s significantly shorter than Super Mario World. It’s considered a “light” or easy kaizo, and has netted rave reviews. I’ve played a bit of it, but never passed the first level.

If you raise the GoFundMe to $80,850 before midnight MDT of September 25th, I’ll switch from playing Super Mario Randomizer (“Way Cool” difficulty) to Princess Kaizo Land. I know, that’s an increase of $1,200, but a) you’ve demonstrated you’ve got the funds at hand, and b) I really don’t want to play Pricess Kaizo Land. I haven’t played Super Mario World in ages, so my skills are pretty rusty. Even an easy kaizo game will be a big challenge! To preserve my sanity, I’ll guarantee to play at least four hours of Princess Kaizo Land, should the target be hit, but I can’t guarantee I’ll pass the game.

As before, any donations to the PayPal account also count towards this goal. My preference is that you donate to that GoFundMe instead of the PayPal link, though; the more cash we stuff in there, the more people will be free of legal debt. Still, it’s your money to do with as you see fit. I’m just happy you spent some of it to help others, in the face of all that 2020 has thrown at you.

Fundraiser: Super Mario World Edition

Like many of you, I grew up playing video games. They were my favorite distraction, much better than TV, and the primary way I bonded with some of my family. I went through a long spell where I stopped playing them, but thanks to a crippling Minecraft addiction I’ve been drawn back in.

When I was considering what to do for the fundraiser, my mind quickly settled on something relating to video games. It’s very much in my wheelhouse, yet not something I’ve shown on this blog. Having said that, I immediately crossed off doing a simple Minecraft stream; I do those way too often to be considered a special event.

Fortunately, I have an excellent substitute: Super Mario World. I played it a tonne as a kid, passing it several times, but I’ve barely played it since my teen years. This is a great excuse to chat about this game and my childhood, then sit down and actually play the thing from start to finish. As the speedrunners would say, I’m aiming for any percent warpless; no Star Road to zip straight to Bowser, though I also won’t take every exit of every level.

And I’ll do it all for the low, low price of $0.

No really, if not a single soul transfers a single penny into the fundraiser by midnight Friday the 25th, I’ll sit down and play Super Mario World at 10 AM MDT on the 26th.

Here’s the brilliant part: playing Super Mario World is kinda boring. It was the launch title for the Super Nintendo, sold 20 million copies, and often came bundled with the system. Pretty much everyone has played it, so while you can wring a bit of enjoyment from reflected nostalgia, it isn’t terribly compelling.

But that popularity also means a lot of other people have hit the same wall, and instead of moving on a few of them tried to find ways to make the game interesting again. A “randomizer,” for instance, is a bit of code that scrambles up a video game. Levels are done out of order, power-ups don’t do what they used to, and sometimes there are text or art changes made to the game. It turns something everything has played into something no-one has, and makes for much more compelling viewing.

As I type this, the legal GoFundMe sits at $79,650. Increase that above to $79,950, and I’ll switch from playing Super Mario World to Super Mario World Randomizer at the “Way Cool” difficulty on the 26th. If you insist on donating only to FtB, instead of everyone impacted by Richard Carrier’s lawsuit, I’ll still count your donation towards that $79,950. I can’t guarantee I’ll complete the randomized version, as it’s possible to encounter a version that’s impossible to pass (or beyond my skill level!) and nobody’s verified this version is passable, but I’ll give it a go for at least four hours.

So click the link and donate to the legal GoFundMe. And don’t worry about blowing past that goal, I have plenty more up my sleeve. If you want to see what else is happening this fundraiser, we’ve also got you covered.

[HJH 2020-09-14: Whoops, forgot to complete a sentence. I also added a link to the fundraising page proper, now that it’s live.]

The Crossroads

Apparently I know the solar system very well?

I attended a lecture on Carl Sagan, hosted by the Atheist Society of Calgary, and part of the event was a trivia challenge. While I wasn’t the only person at my table offering answers, my answers seemed to be the ones most consistently endorsed by the group. Assisted by some technical issues, our team wound up with a massive lead over the second-place finisher. The organizer from ASC surprised us all by saying everyone at our table could pick up a free T-shirt. I wasn’t terribly keen on wearing their logo, but I wandered over to the merch table anyway.

Sitting among the other designs was one that stopped me cold.

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“Rationality Rules STILL Doesn’t Understand Sports”

Picking apart Rationality Rules’ science has been well covered, both by myself and by others, so it’s refreshing to watch someone take an entirely different approach.

[9:54] They outlawed dunking the basketball, because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won too many championships doing it. In nearly every possible example of a rule change in relation to individuals dominating, it comes only after that individual… well, dominated.

[10:16] In conclusion – to steal an ending as well – sport is not defined by fairness of starting point. If it was, we wouldn’t love sports. Sports are about the adversity, about overcoming the odds. It’s not about bleaching them into a robotic simulation in a computer.

Xevaris’ critique is more about the fundamental character of sport, like what it means to compete, and delves deep into history. It’s worth your time. I also want to point you to it because I cover similar territory in an upcoming post.

I really only have one complaint: there’s no closed-captions! There are plenty of reasons to keep them enabled on your videos, YouTubers.

Special Pleading

Dang, I need to correct something I wrote.

Every human right applies to every person, equally. When rights conflict, one is temporarily granted precedent. It’s why the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is ordered the way it is; rights listed earlier in the document are more important than those listed after, greatly simplifying the analysis of any rights conflict.

I’d gotten that impression because Section 1, which allows any right to have restrictions placed on it to preserve a safe and free democracy, was placed up front while later sections deal with things like elections and criminal trials. In reality, they’re all “indivisible.”

Human rights are indivisible. Whether they relate to civil, cultural, economic, political or social issues, human rights are inherent to the dignity of every human person. Consequently, all human rights have equal status, and cannot be positioned in a hierarchical order. Denial of one right invariably impedes enjoyment of other rights. Thus, the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living cannot be compromised at the expense of other rights, such as the right to health or the right to education.

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All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education , or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.

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All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis.

This, of course, makes dealing with conflicting rights much more complicated. Usually, you have to demonstrate significant harm to place limits on a right; for instance, in Canada we allow restrictions on free speech only because they can cause physical harm and a loss of security, while even prisoners and foreign nationals are granted “full access to Canada’s human rights protections.”

Note also that these restrictions come from the state, not private individuals. Google cannot throw you in prison or seize your home, and even when they vacuum up your private info that’s only because they claim you agreed to give up a few specific types of personal information when dealing with them or authorized third parties, and because they can point you to tools that allow you to delete any data they have on you. Liability waiver forms shield some of the parties to the contract from being sued in connection to what happens in a specific time and place, they don’t prevent you from launching all lawsuits and they don’t prevent lawsuits in the case of extreme gross negligence. In no case can a private individual or corporation unilaterally take away a right, and any action that could place limitations on a right must be done by mutual consent.

I think you know where I’m going with this, especially since EssenceOfThought got there first, but humour me. The UN Declaration of Human Rights wasn’t considered legally binding on all countries that signed it at the time, but it’s evolved into precisely that while also expanding to encompass new rights.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said Advisory Opinion OC-24 issued by the Court on 9 January 2018 was a significant step toward upholding the dignity and human rights of persons with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

Pathologizing persons with diverse gender identities, including trans women and men, is one of the root causes behind the grave human rights violations against them. Madrigal-Borloz underlined that the Court concluded that requiring medical or psychological certifications or other unreasonable requirements for gender recognition was not in line with the American Convention.

“I am very pleased with the Court’s reasoning, which is permeated in equal measure by legal rigour and human understanding. Advisory Opinion OC-24 is a veritable blueprint for States to fulfil their obligation to provide quick, transparent and accessible legal gender recognition without abusive conditions, respectful of free/informed choice and bodily autonomy, as was also exhorted last May by a group of United Nations and international human rights experts,” he said.

Gender identity is a fundamental right, at the highest level. But because it took the UN a while to get there, other countries have already granted that right themselves. At the federal level, Canada made it official in 2017.

For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

I’m proud to say we even allow non-binary sex designations on our passports. Even my home province of Alberta, one of the most conservative in the nation, considered gender identity a fundamental human right as of 2015.

WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy that all persons are equal in: dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation.

If gender identity is a human right, then private organizations cannot prevent individuals from being treated according to how they identify, unless both parties mutually consent. If one person says “no,” then any such differential treatment is a human rights violation. Only the state can say otherwise, and even then only if the alternative does significant harm.

So when Rationality Rules says this …

[19:00] And my answer to the more controversial question, “do trans women who have experienced male puberty have an unfair athletic advantage?” is: it depends on the sport. […]

… he’s arguing that private organizations should have the ability to suspend human rights, and that rights are divisible, contrary to decades of legal precedent across multiple countries. And when he says this …

[20:02] I am not opposed to trans women who have experienced male puberty competing in the female category of SOME events because they’re trans. I am opposed because the attributes which are granted from male puberty that play a vital role in some events have not been shown to be sufficiently mitigated by HRT. It’s not about whether or not they’re women, it’s about whether or not “fair play” has been maintained. Do I make myself clear?

… he is making himself abundantly clear. He considers the maintenance of “fair play” in sports vital to the operation of a free and fair democracy, so vital that it justifies removing human rights from some transgender people. In the process, they’ll have fewer rights than convicted criminals.

There’s two ways to rescue Rationality Rules from this absurdity. One is simply that he’s ignorant; in the two months he spent researching the topic and consulting with biologists, physiologists, and/or statisticians [17:50-17:59], he never ran across the human rights argument. The other way is that he doesn’t agree with the concept of human rights. The second path is kind of awkward, as it has him rubbing shoulders with the religious figures he likes to critique. At any rate, he’s closed off both means of escape.

This video can be considered the remake, and I’ve done my utmost best to illustrate that this is not about people’s rights, it’s about *what constitutes fairness in sport*. You, me and everyone else have the right to compete in sports, but that doesn’t mean that we have the right to compete in any division we want.

So there’s no dodging it, Rationality Rules is engaging in special pleading. He wants an exception to an existing rule without justification, even if he has to throw out over fifty years of human rights law in the process.

Now, to be fair, everyone makes mistakes. Rationality Rules isn’t the first atheist/skeptic to be guilty of special pleading, and he won’t be the last. In most cases, this just due to ignorance: they don’t know their logical fallacies, and thus don’t realize they’re engaging in them. If he wants to brush up, I’d recommend he play “Debunked.”

Debunked is a highly strategic card game of logic, reason and nonsense! There are two decks, one full of fallacious arguments, and the other full of everything else – which includes logic to debunk the arguments, ways to improve your hand (such as resurrecting a card from the discard pile), and, most importantly, ways to mess with your opponent (such as making them skip their go). It’s very simple to learn, but hard to master… like logic itself. …

I know it’ll help him in this particular case, because it contains a “special pleading” card.

A playing card titled "Special Pleading," which it helpfully describes as "When someone asserts that something is an exception to a rule without justification."

The card game is currently a Kickstarter project, so the only way he can get a copy is to contact…. oh. Oh dear.

… Hey, I’m Stephen Woodford, the man behind the YouTube channel Rationality Rules, and this game is my attempt to combine my two loves – reason and gaming. Debunked is first and foremost a thoroughly enjoyable and repeatable game, saturated with varying strategies and hilarious themes, but it’s also a fantastic tool for learning logic; the arguments are real, and so too are the fallacies they commit – hence, the logic cards genuinely can teach people a thing or two about valid argumentation (or at the very least remind them).

If you thought I was exaggerating when I said “he’s lost his grip on reality,” bear in mind that I had this card up my sleeve at the time. It had plenty of company, too.

[HJH 2019-07-14: Finally got around to adding the “fair play” link.]

TERFs Harm Women

I hate loose threads. There was something I had to brush past in my last post, because I didn’t know much about it and I was already over the 2,000 word mark. It kept bugging me, though, enough to prompt me to do my homework. Now I realize why this was the first bullet point in that TERF apologetics post:

Associating our intellectual position with a far right-wing one, because some far right-wing thinkers would agree with us in some of our conclusions, and insinuating that our position is all the worse because of it, is an ad hominem. Ad hominems are widely recognised as inappropriate in philosophy. […]

Equally: the fact that person shares a conclusion with a far right-wing person could never show, on its own, that the conclusion was false. It is likely that every single person on the planet shares several hundred (true) beliefs with any given far right-wing person. In brief: this strategy, and any which are structurally like it, is rhetorical guilt-by-association. It has no place in responsible argument.

If we’re playing fallacy cards, then I pull out the Fallacy Fallacy. If it’s a coincidence that TERFs and the religious far-Right agree on several positions, that is indeed an ad hominem. If instead they agree on the same positions because they’ve directly convinced one another of the truthhood of those positions, then it is fair to link the two. This wouldn’t be a bad thing if their positions were true, but if they’re instead an incoherent mess used to harm others then we have an entirely different story. If I can establish such a link then I can lay the harm caused by one group at the feet of the other.

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