Monthly Archive: July 2007

The Dinner Time Telemarketer

It was dinner time, as it always is, when the “invader” called. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hello?

Him: Hello… this is Jeff, with United Independent Universal Environmental Awareness Group.

Me: I’m sorry, who did you say?

Him: This is Jeff, with United Independent Universal Environmental Awareness Group and we would like to ask you a few questions about your local power company.

Me: Well, I’m getting ready to eat dinner right now.

Him: This will only take a few minutes of your time.

Me: Ok, I’ll talk to you until my dinner is ready.

Him: Ok, fair enough… Do you know the name of your local power company?

Me: I think so.

Him: What is the name.

Me: You aren’t a spy for them are you?

Him: No, sir.

Me: How do I know that?

Him: Well, I’m just not.

Me: Who do you work for?

Him: United Independent Universal Environmental Awareness Group.

Me: Can I have your word on that?

Him: Absolutely, sir.

Me: Ok, I get this bill every month from Nevada Power. I suspect that they would be my power company.

Him: And do you know the location of their closest nuclear power plant.

Me: Closest to you or closest to me?

Him: To you.

Me: Yes.

Him: How far away is it from you?

Me: At least a days walk.

Him: About how many miles is that?

Me: It was forty the last time I walked it.

Him: If I were to ask you how you feel about the nuclear facility being so close to you, would you answer:

A I don’t like it at all,
B I somewhat don’t like it.
C It doesn’t matter to me
D I somewhat like it.
E I like it.

Me: I don’t know. Why don’t you ask me?

Him: I just did.

Me: No you said, “If I were to ask you.”

Him: Well, let’s just say I asked you, what would your answer be?

Me: I asked you, what would your answer be.

Him: What?

Me: You said, “Say, I asked you what would your answer be.”

Him: Actually, no… I wanted you to answer the question.

Me: What was the question?

Him: How do you feel about the nuclear facility being so close to you, would your answer be:

A I don’t like it at all
B I somewhat don’t like it
C It doesn’t matter to me
D I somewhat like it
E I like it.

Me: It doesn’t matter to you.

Him: No, how do you feel about it.

Me: About what?

Him: The nuclear power plant being so close to you.

Me: I don’t know.

Him: Would that be the same as ” It doesn’t matter to me?”

Me: I don’t know, how do you feel about it?

Him: No sir, I meant would your saying that you don’t know mean the same as you saying that it doesn’t matter to you?

Me: No, my saying “I don’t know” would mean the same as me saying, “I don’t know.”

Him: Ok, do you know what they do with their waste?

Me: I think they flush it down the toilet.

Him: What do they do with the nuclear waste?

Me: I don’t know.

Him: If you found out that they had plans to bury it in your backyard, would you:

A Be angry
B Be concerned
C Not be concerned
D Be “OK” with it.

Me: If they buried it in my backyard they’d have to be pretty sneaky, because someone is here most of the time and one of us would see them. Well what do you know! Supper is ready! I have to go! Bye!

I had my fun and hung up. How simple can you get? Thinking that this was the end of my dealings with the United Independent Universal Environmental Awareness Group, I ate my dinner and had a relaxing and enjoyable evening…

However, my path would cross that of the United Independent Universal Environmental Awareness Group again in the near future…

The next evening the phone rang again. Guess who? The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello?

Him: This is Rodney at the United Independent Universal Environmental Awareness Group. How are you this evening sir?

Me: I’m fine. Didn’t you people call me yesterday?

Him: Yes, sir, we did… and that’s why I’m calling this evening. I’d like to ask you a few questions about the questionnaire you took yesterday. Is that ok?

Me: Well, I’m right in the middle of sorting my paper clips right now, and I have an 8pm deadline to cut my toenails.

Him: This will only take a minute.

Me: I’ll start the clock.

Him: Ok sir… was our representative courteous in his presentation of the questions.

Me: What are my choices?

Him: Choices?

Me: Well, the guy I talked to yesterday gave me choices to pick from.

Him: Oh, I see… Well, just give me you best recollection.

Me: I have a lot of them. It’s difficult to pick just one recollection.

Him: I was referring to last night.

Me: Oh! Ok! Dinner was great!

Him: Very funny, sir. You have quite the sense of humor. Haha! Was the person you talked with last night nice to you?

Me: No choices, huh?

Him: Haha! No choices.

Me: I would say he was mostly nice.

Him: Did you have any trouble understanding the way he presented the questions.

Me: No but some of the questions were confusing.

Him: So the way he presented the questions confused you?

Me: No, I understood the way, it was the questions that confused me.

Him: I don’t understand.

Me: If I were to ask how do you feel about the way you don’t understand, would you answer:

A I don’t have a clue at all
B I mostly don’t have a clue
C I somewhat don’t have a clue
D I don’t know what a clue is.

Him: (click)

[ from ]

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The only debate on Intelligent Design that is worthy of its subject 

Moderator: We’re here today to debate the hot new topic, evolution versus Intelligent Des—

(Scientist pulls out baseball bat.)

Moderator: Hey, what are you doing?

(Scientist breaks Intelligent Design advocate’s kneecap.)


Scientist: Perhaps it only appears that I broke your
kneecap. Certainly, all the evidence points to the hypothesis I broke
your kneecap. For example, your kneecap is broken; it appears to be a
fresh wound; and I am holding a baseball bat, which is spattered with
your blood. However, a mere preponderance of evidence doesn’t mean
anything. Perhaps your kneecap was designed that way.
Certainly, there are some features of the current situation that are
inexplicable according to the “naturalistic” explanation you have just
advanced, such as the exact contours of the excruciating pain that you
are experiencing right now.

Intelligent Design advocate: AAAAH! THE PAIN!

Scientist: Frankly, I personally find it completely implausible that
the random actions of a scientist such as myself could cause pain of
this particular kind. I have no precise explanation for why I find this
hypothesis implausible — it just is. Your knee must have been
designed that way!

Intelligent Design advocate: YOU BASTARD! YOU KNOW YOU DID IT!

Scientist: I surely do not. How can we know anything for
certain? Frankly, I think we should expose people to all points of
view. Furthermore, you should really re-examine whether your hypothesis
is scientific at all: the breaking of your kneecap happened in the
past, so we can’t rewind and run it over again, like a laboratory
experiment. Even if we could, it wouldn’t prove that I broke your
kneecap the previous time. Plus, let’s not even get into the
fact that the entire universe might have just popped into existence
right before I said this sentence, with all the evidence of my alleged
kneecap-breaking already pre-formed.

Intelligent Design advocate: That’s a load of bullshit sophistry!
Get me a doctor and a lawyer, not necessarily in that order, and we’ll
see how that plays in court!

Scientist (turning to audience): And so we see, ladies and
gentlemen, when push comes to shove, advocates of Intelligent Design do
not actually believe any of the arguments that they profess to believe.
When it comes to matters that hit home, they prefer evidence, the
scientific method, testable hypotheses, and naturalistic explanations.
In fact, they strongly privilege naturalistic explanations over
supernatural hocus-pocus or metaphysical wankery. It is only within the
reality-distortion field of their ideological crusade that they give
credence to the flimsy, ridiculous arguments which we so commonly see
on display. I must confess, it kind of felt good, for once, to be the
one spouting free-form bullshit; it’s so terribly easy and relaxing,
compared to marshaling rigorous arguments backed up by empirical
evidence. But I fear that if I were to continue, then it would be
habit-forming, and bad for my soul. Therefore, I bid you adieu.

[this article, and several follow-ups, can be found in the original at ]

Blunders of the World”

Wealth without work

2. Pleasure without conscience

Knowledge without character

Commerce without morality

Science without humanity

6. Worship without sacrifice

Politics without principle


* Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, India. He led India’s
movement for independence from British rule and is one of the most respected spiritual and
political leaders of the 20th century. In 1948 he was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic who
opposed his tolerance for all creeds and religions. Gandhi is honoured by his people as
the father of the Indian nation and is called ‘Mahatma’, which means Great Soul.

I went and saw Fuzzy Planter and the Side Order of Phoenix Fries tonight… or something like that…

I can’t imagine how anyone followed the movie.  There was less than 30% of the book left, and they rarely even used one cheat or another to fill in what was missing.  If I hadn’t re-read the book last week, I would have had no idea what was happening.

I’m sure J.K. Rowling is richer for the making of this movie, but on the basis of this movie it is not deserved.


Time repeats itself.

Following are my New Year’s Resolutions for *2006*

  1. Break the habit of smoking.  I smoked for years without
    being addicted; the last 2 years or so have not been that way.  I
    don’t have to quit, just have to stop wanting it… smoking once every
    2-3 days is not that bad, and I used to do just that.
  2. Work on debt issues.  Get more paid work and use it to bring
    debt down.  I should be able to kill $4-5,000 of my debt this
    year.  I’ve already ground up several credit cards so I can’t use
    them; only have two left.
  3. STAY SINGLE.  I need to keep this up until at least Summer
    of ’08.  I’m too damned generous, and it gets me deeper in debt
    every time.
  4. Study how I can replace as much as possible of my supplements with better eating habits, and DO IT.
  5. Lose weight.  Headed right direction again, 262 this morning
    (over 280 in October).  Need to cut out fatty, salty foods (lose
    the chips n’ cheese, Moss).  (Starting Dr. Abravanel’s A-type
    diet.)  Should be able to get to and maintain 240, and work for
  6. Keep up walking program.  (Projected for 2007 – get in regular exercise at the Y or other gym.)

Well, I’m just now getting the hang of #1.  My non-smoking days each month were 6 in May, 6 in June, and already are 9 in July (with only 5 days where I smoked more than once).  I should easily break my goal of 12, and am shooting for a par of 20…  the cigars just aren’t as addictive as the pipe, and I’ve only smoked my pipe on 4 days this month (I’m almost out of pipe tobacco, and have promised myself to not buy more).

#2 is out of reach.  April (March?) was the first time in 9 years I have not been able to make my credit payments.  But I’ve been single (#3) since late February, and if I can keep that up for, oh 4 or 5 years, I’ll probably have #2 back in shape.

#4 didn’t happen.  I tried, I really tried, but cutting back on the supplements caused new problems and changing diets brought back old ones.

#5 is in progress again.  Note that I had gone from 280 in Oct. 2005 to 262 as of Jan. 1, 2006.  I’m at 255 now… can’t seem to lose quickly, but it’s a good trend.  The last time I was scaring 240 I had a 2-week-long flu and didn’t feel like eating at all.  And #6 is in progress again, although I hurt more the more days I go out walking (and the walking is harder, since I’ve moved to a hillier area).  I’ve joined SparkPeople, which has been helping some.

Still can’t think of anything else I need to do; i.e., nothing to add to the list.  My self-esteem is improving, I am getting more opportunities, I have a much nicer apartment than when I wrote that original list, I’m keeping busy…


Torrey Strikes Again

Speaker Raises Questions About NAMI’s Values, Future Direction

Members polarize over controversial statements contradictory to organization’s espoused values.

By Steve Harrington, M.P.A., J.D.

E. Fuller Torrey is a persuasive speaker. But his June 23, 2007 speech and the response of the highly enthused audience that received it should sound an alarm regarding the culture and values of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and its affiliates.

Torrey used extreme anecdotes and distorted and uncited data to support his premise that persons with severe mental illnesses cost society much in terms of treatment and criminal activity. Torrey called for a return to long-term treatment and easy involuntary commitment of persons with a mental illness. He vilified mental health professionals as “civil-libertarian liberals” and judges who scrutinize testimony.

Torrey advocated involuntary hospital commitment not just for those who represented a risk to the well-being of themselves or others, but virtually anyone who acted strangely. He lamented that it can take hours of waiting in a courtroom to have someone involuntarily committed but can be discharged in “ten minutes.”

Throughout his presentation, Torrey extolled the virtues of medications and stated repeatedly that people should be forced to take medications. He also advocated for changes in healthcare information privacy laws to make such information more readily available. While he acknowledged that other interventions were part of the overall treatment strategy, Torrey advocated withholding some of these interventions if persons refused to admit they had a mental illness or failed to comply with a prescribed medication regimen.

Torrey’s presentation was in stark contrast to other sessions offered at the NAMI 2007 National Conference. Other sessions were hopeful, compassionate and recovery focused. Torrey, however, abandoned such notions in favor of easy answers to complex problems. He said the problems of homelessness, crime, and expensive treatment can be best solved with forced treatment and punitive approach. Such treatment, he argued, is the best liberty because it frees the afflicted person from the pain of mental illness.

In his presentation, Torrey pridefully noted that he was personally responsible for the adoption of various laws restricting the freedoms of persons with a mental illness. He chided state NAMI affiliates who opposed or did not strongly support his efforts and accused them of “selling out” to corporate or government interests. Any person-or organization-that disagrees with his views is inherently fraudulent, Torrey implied. One must wonder if Torrey views NAMI as corrupt as the organization has been a leading advocate of health insurance parity-a measure Torrey has opposed.

Torrey failed to provide citations for his assertions, and with good reason. The unsubstantiated and doubtful statistics he used to support his positions are clearly contradicted by competent and compelling professional studies, including research showing forced treatment is extremely expensive does not result in recovery.

Although NAMI should be commended for offering exposure to differing perspectives, Torrey has had repeated opportunities to express his disturbing, panic-fostering views. Most frightening was the reaction of the approximately 1,000 attendees at the session. Torrey received repeated ovations and during the following question-and-answer period, those ovations continued as audience members praised his viewpoints. A single consumer who asked Torrey to reconsider the value of civil liberties was met with stark silence from the audience.

Torrey unabashedly revealed that his sister was committed to a psychiatric facility and would not be discharged as long as he lived. The audience spontaneously applauded his dedication to such oppression. This comment alone is disturbing because it reflects pride in his role in depriving his sister of basic human rights regardless of her current or future condition. It also may shed some light on the formation of Torrey’s harsh perspective.

Torrey’s presentation style was reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s approach to the German people before and during World War II. Hitler, too, advocated forced treatment of persons with a mental illness. He, too, argued they-and society-would be better off isolated in facilities and forced to undergo treatment. That isolation and treatment resulted in the mass executions of and gruesome experimentation on hundreds of thousands of persons with mental disabilities. Many of whom were identified by others as simply “acting strangely.”

Indeed, this is an extreme and perhaps overstated comparison, but there are other similarities between Torrey and those in history who have advocated the abdication of basic human rights.

Hitler, Mussolini, Napoleon, and some Roman emperors also created adversaries as scapegoats for society’s ills. Intellectuals-including psychiatrists, social researchers, and lawyers-were among those sent to concentration camps and executioners because they advocated for civil liberties and reason. Torrey, in much the same way, vilifies these same groups because, like the framers of the U.S. Constitution, they value personal freedoms. Like Torrey, other oppressive leaders have cast those with opposing views as virtual criminals.

Torrey’s repeated presentations at NAMI national conferences and rejection of accepted research on mental health treatment calls into question the NAMI organizational culture. Some NAMI affiliates have worked hard to bring consumers into their local organizations. But when NAMI officials and members fall at the feet of Torrey, consumers rightfully feel disrespected and ponder the contrast between the espoused values of the organization and an uncertain agenda.

During Torrey’s presentation, about a dozen consumer members left in obvious disgust. Some conference attendees preferred to boycott the presentation. During the conference-planning stages, when NAMI was asked by some consumers to avoid yet another torrent of Torrey views, they were told the organization invites diverse opinions.

If this were truly the case and the organization was not pandering, then we would see repeated, high-profile presentations by such organizations as Mind Freedom or the Church of Scientology which believe psychotropic medications of any sort are harmful. Or we would see representatives from some Native American tribes that believe mental illnesses do not exist at all or representatives from the faith community demonstrating an exorcism to withdraw the devil from persons with a mental illness. Indeed, such a demonstration would attract a large audience and at the same time present a different perspective.

The argument that NAMI conferences are a forum for diverse opinions fails each time Torrey is free to torment consumers with intolerance and his humiliating and oppressive speech. The polarizing effect of Torrey’s repeated presentations is a danger to the organizational health of NAMI and is counterproductive to the good work the organization has accomplished and endeavors to perform in the future.

If NAMI is to move forward, the organization must have the courage to define its values and express those values in the speakers it selects. Torrey’s repeated and high-profile appearances at NAMI events are an implied endorsement of his views. Torrey has widely published his perspectives and a single appearance at a NAMI national conference would have been sufficient.

It is time for NAMI to decide if it will dedicate itself to its stated mission and values or continue pandering to a diverse constituency, some of which are merely mesmerized by the notion there are unrealistically simple answers to complex issues. The organization simply cannot be all things to all people and must adhere to its bylaws or adopt new ones.

If the organization endorses (implied or expressed) a restrictive, medical model that violates human rights in a manner found only in the most oppressive nations as advocated by Torrey, then it should not expect support from the millions of persons diagnosed with mental illnesses who recover each year. Other stakeholders, including government entities, may also abandon NAMI for a more reasoned approach that respects human dignity.

On the other hand, NAMI can still present opposing views but also reap the benefits of adopting a recovery culture-one that is supported by true scientific evidence and not encumbered by stigmatizing hyperbole.


Steve Harrington is a NAMI member, consumer of mental health services, family member of a person receiving mental health services, former lawyer, author, and recovery advocate. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The views expressed in this article are his alone.

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