Should Even Heroin Be Legal? Ctd

A reader writes:

I am enjoying Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream very much. For the most part I find that the chasing-screamauthor backs up his views with solid evidence and logic.

However, the suggestion in Chapter 13 that a chaotic, abusive home and the parents’ failure to bond (attach) with the child is what causes addiction proves too much. Recent NIMH studies by Bridget Grant show that personality disorders persistently and robustly predict the persistence of substance abuse disorders. Grant’s work shows that roughly 50% of substance abusers meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder.  There is good reason to believe that these individuals are quite resistant to treatment as usual.

It is fair to say that people with personality disorders feel isolated and alone. So, to that extent, Hari’s thesis has validity. And while early literature connected personality disorders to a chaotic home, abuse and a failure of attachment, the more current view is that these individuals may be so sensitive that they perceive chaos and abuse where others would not. And the failure to attach may be due to something inherent in the child rather the parent.

The point is that it is unfair, as Hari does in his book, to assume that because an addict feels isolated and reports an abusive or chaotic home, that this report is accurate. Sometimes, it is just the way the disordered person has misperceived the world.

Another reader:

I’ve gotten a little more than halfway through Hari‘s book, looking forward to actually being able to take part in the coming Book Club discussion, now never to happen. But the reading itself is worthwhile: What a marvelous book so far.

That it is. And don’t miss Johann on Real Time tomorrow night.

The Genetics Of Fucking Around

The Economist unpacks new research suggesting that humans are not born equally promiscuous:

As with many biological phenomena—height, for example—propensity for promiscuity in either sex might be expected to be normally distributed; that is, to follow what are known colloquially as “bell curves”. The peaks of these curves would have different values between the sexes, just as they do in the case of height. But the curves’ shapes would be similar.

Rafael Wlodarski of Oxford University wondered whether things are a little more complicated than that. Perhaps, he and his colleagues posit in a study just published in Biology Letters, rather than cads, dads and their female equivalents simply being at the extremes of a continuous distribution, individual people are specialised for these roles. If so, the curve for each sex would look less like the cross-section of a bell, and more like that of a Bactrian camel, with two humps instead of one.

They found some evidence to back that theory up:

These results suggest that—probably for men and possibly for women—caddishness, daddishness and so on are indeed discrete behavioural strategies, perhaps underpinned by genetic differences, rather than being extremes of a continuum in the way that tall and short people are. Although there is some overlap between the two strategies, they are, if Dr Wlodarski and his colleagues are correct, what biologists call phenotypes. These are outward manifestations of underlying genes that give natural selection something to get hold of and adapt down the generations.

Intriguingly, the difference in phenotypic mix between the sexes is not huge. Dr Wlodarski and his colleagues calculate that cads outnumber dads by a ratio of 57:43. Loose women, by contrast, are outnumbered by their more constant sisters, but by only 53:47. Each of these ratios tends in the direction of received wisdom. Both, though, are close enough to 50:50 for that fact to need an explanation.

So much more to find out about us as a species. And now, finally, some time …

The Fight For Independent Journalism

A CBC camera crew led by the wonderful Michelle Gagnon visited the Dish “offices” recently:

The CBC’s Neil Macdonald takes on native advertizing sponsored content branded content ads disguised as journalism. Money quote:

Sullivan’s case against native advertisement is powerful and succinct. “It is advertising that is portraying itself as journalism, simple as that,” he told me recently. “It is an act of deception of the readers and consumers of media who believe they’re reading the work of an independent journalist.”

Advertisers, he says, want to buy the integrity built up over decades by journalists and which, in the past, was kept at arm’s length. Now they will happily pay to imitate it: “The whole goal is you not being able to tell the difference.” Sullivan’s argument is so doctrinaire, so principled, that it makes bourgeois practitioners of the craft, like me, squirm.

Well, we never compromised on this. Of that I am deeply proud.

A Final Bleg


What was your favorite moment of Dishness over the years?

Email your reply under the subject heading “Moment of Dishness” to and we’ll post some for tomorrow morning. Please keep your response under 100 words (about twice the length of this post) so we can read as many as we can. Points for esoteric or embarrassing moments.

(Photo mashup of this post and this thing sent by a reader this morning, because Dishness.)

The Latest On Those Gitmo “Suicides”

It’s a story we have long covered, even as many MSM outlets pooh-poohed the idea of accidental-homicide-through-torture. So we’re glad to be able to the recent Newsweek piece as the definitive latest word on the affair. It contains the following key paragraph:

A highly placed source in the Department of Defense who deals with detainees’ affairs, and who asked to remain anonymous because he is not permitted to speak to the media without receiving prior clearance, camp-nowrote to me in an email: “After reviewing the information concerning the three deaths at Camp Delta on June 9, 2006, it is painfully apparent the personnel involved in fact created an illusion of an investigation. When you consider the missing documents, the lack of key interviews, and the questionable evidence found on the bodies, it is blatantly obvious there was something that occurred that night that is not documented.”

It may take time but if more people refuse to believe the official line on this, the truth may eventually win out.

(Photo: Google Earth picture of a facility, allegedly known as “Camp No”, outside the perimeter of the main detention camp, where Gitmo guards say they saw prisoners being taken to on a regular basis.)