Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crossing the border with Borderline Personality Disorder

The other day I read with interest an article on Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall, a talented football player with a penchant for on- and off-field issues. His antics aren’t exactly “news,” as they seem common place for the divas that play wide receiver in the National Football League – surly attitude with the media, a “me first” disposition, arguments with coaches about how many “looks” he gets each game, and the increasingly occasional legal run-in, including domestic disputes with significant others; in Marshall’s case actually getting stabbed by his wife.

Yes, the typical ho-hum, every day story of an over-paid, pampered athlete, save one noticeable addition. You see, recently, Marshall announced he has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.


“Borderline” personality disorder? By name alone, it’s defined as not being a full-fledged personality disorder, or maybe not a personality disorder at all, just creeping up towards disorder, but staying tantalizingly just south of the border. “Borderline” connotes an uncertainty, a maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, and seems like the ultimate clincial hedging of bets.

There’s no “borderline” in science, outside of hypotheses being put to the test and either proven or disproven. How ridiculous would “borderline pregnant” be? Or, maybe borderline diabetic? Borderline heart disease any better?

Child, please.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD for those who think it actually exists) could possibly be the ultimate 20th/21st century creation designed to make people feel comfortable by shirking responsibility, blaming something, anything, even if made up on the spot, for their boorish, anti-social, uncivilized behavior. It is the euphemistic way of saying, “I’m a douche bag with no personal accountability.”

In clinical terms, “disorder” and “disease” are often used interchangeably by doctors, of which I’m not one, of course, although my hand writing and proclivities toward inflated self-worth and egotism make me qualified, if not actually board certified in many states. Neither term implies underlying causes, although “disease” implies permanence, invariance, and non-subjectivity; hence, therefore, Borderline Personality Disorder, not disease.

Disorder is the new wave term of recent popularity. Disorders relieve sufferers of the stigma of having a disease, as if having a disease made one a member of the untouchable caste. WikiAnswers will tell you that “disorders” are often used for illnesses where the origin, duration, or physiological basis is relatively unknown.

Okay, to be fair, what do I know about medicine, other than what I’ve learned from watching “House” and learning terms like “lumbar puncture?” I might not know much of medicine, but I do know about branding, and BPD’s biggest problem is branding.

The National Education Alliance Borderline Personality Disorder (NEABPD) – uh, see what I mean about a “branding problem” – is tasked with educating the public on the “disorder’ and advancing both diagnoses and treatments. In the words of the NEABPD, Borderline Personality Disorder was officially recognized by the psychiatric community in 1980 and is more than two decades behind in research, treatment options, and family psycho-education compared to other major psychiatric disorders.

You know, real disorders.

According to the organization, BDP affects up to 5.9% of adults (14 million Americans), is more common than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and is prevalent in 20% of inpatients at psychiatric hospitals and 10% of outpatients. Brandon Marshall himself cites research that 35% of male prison inmates suffer from it.

If the NEABDP really wants to raise the profile of BDP, might I suggest first changing the name – you got to do something about the “borderline” part. For anybody not looking for an excuse for his or her behavior, the name suggests a reach at best, a sham at worst. I mean, c’mon, if BDP was a real disorder that affected the psychological well-being of individuals, wouldn’t we have given it a way better name, something with credibility and appropriate severity, not something that just begs people to discount as a bunch of rubbish?

Moreover, aside from the branding opportunity, there’s the need for a public relations campaign to dig out of the hole BDP’s national celebrity spokesperson, Mr. Marshall, relentlessly shovels, for him and his fellow afflicted. A skeptical, cynical society – okay, forget society, it might just be me – will be prone to dismiss a diagnosis of BDP as an easy out for social misfits like Marshall to make excuses for their behavior, the safety net of “it’s not my fault, I have a medical condition, or least a disorder, or, rather, perhaps a ‘borderline’ disorder” ready-made excuse.

Brandon, regardless of whether you have BDP or not, don’t think it’s a waiver freeing you from responsibility. Excuses are like asses; not only does everyone have one, but also using the former is being the latter. What you do, your behavior, is who you are, and it’s as simple as that. The eleven calls Douglas County (Colorado) deputies made to you home between January 2006 and July 2008 gives us hints as to your character. Your five arrests and driving without a license incident, all since 2004, tell even more.

True, the world is not always black and white. But, it’s a lot more darker and lighter gray than our society often cares to admit. No “borderline” about it.

Of course, as you know, I’m often mistaken; that’s just this guy’s opinion.

Diagnose my many disorders on Twitter @RayHartjen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Guilty of guilty pleasures

It used to be through all the trials and tribulations life brought, the collective American psyche was calmed with one reassuring thought - the next generation would be better off than the current. From the first settlers at Plymouth Rock to Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation” and beyond, it was proven true, as the mean and median standard of living grew, and America became the land where dreams came true.

No longer. Modern day America has lost that once soothing antidote and is now faced with the very real possibility that the next generation will actually be worse off than its predecessors. Those who are parents, try sleeping well after reading that.

Yesterday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded its rating of the United States’ credit to that of AA+. It’s the first time ever that the U.S.’s credit rating has not been AAA. Some knuckleheads might think, “Hey, AA+ isn’t bad.” Let me remind them that AA+ is the same rating Spain has. Now, don’t get me wrong, for I love Spain. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, with the exception, perhaps, of some of the mouth breathers around Bilboa. But, as great a place as Spain is, its economy has it teetering on becoming the Greece of Western Europe. Oh, wait a second, I suppose the title of “the Greece of Western Europe” is rightfully taken by Ireland. So, maybe Spain can aspire to be Ireland South.

Nonetheless, I digress.

S&P’s rating came one day after the Dow cratered, losing 512 points on Thursday and wiping out all the gains of the year thus far, the worse one day showing since the global economic crisis of 2008. So, what prompted all the bad economic news? Believe it or not, it was the “good news” of our federal legislative leaders coming to an agreement on a debt ceiling. As S&P stated in its report, “The political brinkmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believed.”

In our culture, we certainly love our heroes. But more so than admiring heroes, we practically live to stick it to our villains, and love to attach blame whenever we can. We’re finger pointers – if not always directly at someone/some group, then the finger is straight upright in self-righteous defiance.

Economists, or at least most of them, will tell you that deficit spending by government is a good economic stimulus and an engine for growth, but only when done somewhat in moderation. Now, you don’t need me to tell you that the United States has never been particularly adept at moderation.


In anything.

As citizens, we should be wary of pointing fingers of blame toward politicians. We need to remember the politicians in Washington are just like us, if maybe a bit more stupid and morally bankrupt, and certainly more conniving and shirking of personal accountability. Remember, we vote them into office, for crying out loud.

You see, as we point a finger toward Washington D.C., we neglect to see the three other fingers of our hands pointing backward to us. How can we blame the President, the Senate, and Congress for not being able to make tough choices and curtail spending when we can’t seem to do the same ourselves?

Behold, we collectively pledge our allegiance to the United States of Consumers.

Now, consumerism can be good, and it can bring a certain degree of comfort. That’s okay if we happen to consume the things we in turn make. Our problems stem in both sides of the equation – we consume much, much too much and we make … well, do we make anything at all anymore?

Take a look around at all your stuff. Is any of it made in America? If it is, say like a shitty car, do you secretly, or not so secretly as the case may be, harbor desires for a nicer competitive product made overseas?

Deficit spending is easy and a self-fulfilling prophecy when we don’t make anything anymore. Most Americans are “paper pushers,” but, guess what, there’s not even paper anymore. We’re really just email senders and receivers. About the only thing we do really well is check in on Foursquare when we go shopping. Oh, and serve each other over priced meals and drinks.

One simple statistic to show us just how messed up our country is. It’s $100,000. That’s the pay some barely functional retard named Snooki gets per episode of Jersey Shore. Why? Because 10.7 million other barely functional retards in the US actually watch each episode, what when they’re not busy keeping up with whoever the f&*$ the Kardashians are.

I feel depressed and more than a bit dirty just typing that paragraph.

I know, I know. Some of you Jersey Shore, Kardashian-loving lunatics are thinking we all deserve a guilty pleasure.

My one word retort: Starbucks.

Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) is a $27.5 billion company built upon nothing but guilty pleasures. Yes, dear reader, a $4 coffee is a guilty pleasure a-plenty, and many Americans have their “guilty pleasure” quota box pleasure checked off by 9:30 am. By the way, Starbucks is only a $27.5 billion company because it shed over $3 billion in market capitalization as the financial markets shook last week. Anyway you cut $27.5 billion, that’s a lot of guilty pleasure.

More guilty pleasures? How about TVs? It used to be TVs were passed down from generation to generation, literally written into last wills and testaments. Now, we have industries, foreign of course, built on providing us new TVs to buy every four and half years. I would dare say all of us know of at least one neighbor or friend, if not ourselves, that has a TV in the garage.

If you have more than one TV for every person in the household – that’s a guilty pleasure.

Cars. Ever see a home foreclosed but a relatively new luxury car or sports sedan in the driveway? Guilty pleasure.

More cars than licensed drivers in the house? Guilty pleasure.

Think I skipped over the foreclosed home? Not so fast, my friends. Since 2007, news stories of strawberry pickers taking out, and defaulting on, jumbo mortgages have become rather commonplace.

Not all defaulted loans result in foreclosures. We’re seeing some rather new phenomena as evidenced with some southern California fires. Remember in decades past there would be news footage of homeowners sitting on their houses fighting the encroaching flames with garden hoses? We tend not to see such video footage anymore. I would like to think it’s because we have gotten a whole heck of a lot smarter. But, come on, you know the skeptics and realists of us are thinking homeowners want their upside down homes burned to the ground, alleviating their financial problems. 

Come to think off it, fires might provide all of us reason to take a deeper, introspective look at how we live and what is really important. With brush fires in California, we often have warnings, and those warnings result in evacuations. Homeowners grab what they can and then flee toward safety.

Quick, you have 30 minutes to take what’s important and leave – what do you take? All that other stuff you are willing to leave behind, do you need it? Do you even want it?

Why do you have it?

We can’t blame D.C. lawmakers for everything, for they are simply we. In a land of plenty, we want even more, damned be the costs and the consideration for what we can afford or what might have to be paid later, by others. U.S. consumers – all 300 million of us – had a collective $2.4 trillion of debt in 2010. Let’s just assume that figure has risen over the past 8 months.

A little look at the news and a quick read of the financial section of the newspaper should be required reading for all citizens. But, we’ll need to do it on our smart phone or tablet, so we can do it on the run to back-to-school shopping, or better yet Black Friday after Thanksgiving – nothing like standing in long lines to spend money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need. It’s the great American way in our United States of Consumers.

Then again, I could be wrong – it’s just this guy’s opinion.

Tweet me between visits to Starbucks @RayHartjen

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The first three strikes should have been an out

Moammar Gadhafi’s son was killed by a NATO missile yesterday, along with three grandchildren, furthering his own personal tragedies as the entrenched strongman of Libya. You might recall that he lost another son in the 80’s, at the hands of a U.S.-led airstrike.
You’d wonder how much of it would be enough, right? Seemingly forever, the crazed madman has been the pimple on the backside of everybody in the geopolitical community, the burr under the proverbial saddle. Even Libya’s friends don’t like or trust him, and nearly everyone this side of Kim Jong-il would rather see him step down, if not for a jail cell or a hangman’s noose, at the very least a secluded country exile estate in the middle of nowhere.

That’s what 30 years of state-sponsored terrorism will get you – seclusion and isolation, and no friends to turn to when your subjects – er, citizens – begin their rebellion.

That it’s taken this long to have him on his heels and scrambling to maintain control is a wonder. It’s not like the entire world couldn't realize something was amiss from the very start. The clues were overpowering.

First off, the name, naturally.

Ol’ Moammar burst on the scene as Gadhafi, Gaddafi, Qaddafi, Khadafy, and Khadafi. Never before had more people been more confused, save the first world-wide telecast of the World Cup soccer tournament, when viewers wondered aloud if the Dutch and Holland were different teams than the Netherlands. And, of course, that was just his surname. Forget that Moammar can also be Muammar. Or that it’s perfectly fine, apparently, to put an “al” in front of any of the last names, ala al-Gadhafi.

Frankly, it’s poor branding. Who cares that the root of the problem lies in the translation of Arabic? You got to use what the customers use, or in this case, the rest of the world. A good PR team, probably executed on his rise to power, would have settled on one spelling. A great PR team would have settled on just one lasting, iconic name. It worked for Elvis and Madonna, and in politics, it’s worked recently in the U.S. for W, Bill, and Barack. You hear, you know. A bad name dooms the regime form the start.

Aside from the name, there’s a bigger problem. When you’re the dictator, the ultimate ruler, what title do you bestow on yourself? For me, I’m going with Your Highness, Extreme Excellency, etc. Even the demure title of President is cool. But, Colonel? Please, you can’t get global respect among your tyrannical peers with the title of Colonel.

For crying out loud, Colonel Klink was a Colonel, and he didn’t know what the fuck was going on in the tunnels underneath him.

Think about it - Moammar has officers in his own army that out rank him.  Well, at least technically.  He doesn't seem the sort to not get his way, and a bullet, as it has for centuries, continues to be one heck of a persuader.

The third strike the global community seemingly missed was his fashion sense, those words being used in the most liberal of all possible meanings, I'm afraid. Moammar, really? Now, the fatigues on occasion, while awfully Fidel-esque in general terms, are a little pussified with some unnecessary color and bling. However, it is a uniform, and there’s something about that, so I’ll cut you some slack on that account.

But, the Vegas/Barney pajamas - c’mon man. The last time we saw something like that was Reuben in the Clooney/Pitt remake of “Ocean’s Eleven.” Oh, Moammar, it should be pointed out that Elliot Gould’s character, and his wardrobe, was a parody; you know, for laughs.

So, when you break it down to its core elements, the worldwide community should have known that Moammar was a troubled guy who not only needed to go, but probably need not ascend to power in the first place. Now, he’s dug in deeper than a tick on a Tennessee bloodhound, and is giving no indication of leaving gracefully.

The people of Libya will continue to suffer; Gadhafi himself will continue to suffer. But, the end will come, and it will likely come soon. Afterwards, we can only hope the UN passes a resolution and makes the “three strikes” inrrefutable doctrine; a criteria for instant dismissal of a country's leader.
Of course, that’s just this guy’s opinion.
Tweet me @RayHartjen

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Next After Egypt’s Internet Revolution?

After weeks of digging in like a Tennessee tick on a hound dog, Egypt’s de facto President/Dictator emeritus, Hosni Mubarak, hightailed it out of the country and turned the reigns over to the military. In what was widely viewed as the Internet’s first revolution, proclamations of victory for the people resonated from Twitter feeds around the globe. Yes, shouts of victories from the Twitterverse and blogsphere, the vast majority of whom aren’t Egyptian. I shit you not.

Oddly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed the victory for the people, fresh off using military hit squads to murder protestesr and opposition supporters in his own country just a couple of years ago. Again, I shit you not.

Of course, Ahmadinejad cloaked his proclamation as a victory over the “satanic” influences of the West (read: the United States of America). Unconfirmed are rumors that he celebrated by going out and buying a new, ill-fitting, not-so-stylish brown suit.

So, okay, internet citizenry, what’s next? We can’t just go haphazardly overthrowing governments in the name of democracy without executing a good follow-up plan. Where’s the follow-up plan for Egypt?

First, it better entail cleaning up all the mess of the past few weeks and making the country safe for tourists. Without tourism, Egypt is forced to fall back on its secondary and tertiary industries of … yeah, I’m stumped on that one too. Textiles? Sure, that’s just the sweatshop industry to bring hope of prosperity to a country with double-digit unemployment, a GDP per capita of just $6,200 US, and over 20% of the population living in poverty.

Listen, before we go get the internet up in a storm over some other country, let’s finish the job in Egypt. That entails, my friends, doing some big-time praying and crossing of fingers, for the ambiguity of the near- and long-term future of the country opens the doors to some not-so-pleasant outcomes.

For the United States, and pretty much all of the non-Muslim world, there are two major question marks surrounding Mubarak’s exit, primarily:

1. What’s the status of the Suez Canal? Said differently, will it stay open to American warships and international commerce vessels?

2. What’s the status of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel?  Said differently, what are the odds of the entire Middle East being eventually nuked  into a sheen of solid glass?

Did you wonder by Ahmadinejad was so happy today? He sees an opportunity – a door open for him to stick in his toe and the toes of the Muslim Brotherhood. With that door open, there’s lots of room to come in, rearrange the furniture, raid the refrigerator, and fondle the maid.

The best case scenario involves an open and public debate and conversation in Egypt, with the people choosing moderation and common sense, freedom and liberty. The worst case scenario involves replacing a corrupt dictatorship with a radical Islamic regime, providing no economic or political gain to the populace and doing nothing more than pushing worldwide defense systems closer to DefCon 1.

An interesting couple of months are ahead for all of us, Twitter and Facebook accounts notwithstanding. The internet revolution is the easy part. The internet reconstruction is a hell of a lot more difficult.

Of course, that’s just this guy’s opinion.

Tweet me up at @RayHartjen