Monday, February 2, 2009


CNN reports on some new studies on alcoholism.
A recent survey of alcoholism studies in the Lancet suggests that men have more than a 20 percent lifetime risk of developing alcohol-use disorders, while women's risk is 8 to 10 percent.

I couldn't help but notice that men have the same kind of bad deal here as they have in the suicide stats we talked about the other day. Why do you think that is?

The main point of the CNN article seems to be that alcoholism is genetic.
Much of that risk is inherited. Studies show that as much as 60 percent of the risk of alcohol-use disorders is genetic, said Dr. Marc Schuckit, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the alcohol and drug treatment program at the Veterans Affairs-San Diego Healthcare System, who wrote the Lancet article.

The risk for alcoholism is four times greater for children of alcoholics, even those who are adopted by non-alcoholic families, Schuckit said.

I find that fascinating. How about you? Everyone agrees that a high percentage of prisoners were abusing alcohol and drugs during their criminal careers. Do you think the idea of genetic predisposition to alcoholism or drug addiction detracts from the idea of personal responsibility? If there really is such a thing as the genetic factor, wouldn't it follow that leniency is appropriate for those afflicted?

What's your opinion?


  1. "Do you think the idea of genetic predisposition to alcoholism or drug addiction detracts from the idea of personal responsibility? If there really is such a thing as the genetic factor, wouldn't it follow that leniency is appropriate for those afflicted?"

    If that is true, it just means that they can contract the "disease" more readily. It does not mean that they cannot control it or takes steps to ensure that they don't get it--like not using drugs or alcohol.

    No way is that an excuse for criminal behavior. There are a lot of people suffering from alcoholism that do not break the law.

  2. I have known some recvovered alcoholics and I know plenty of alcoholics of various degrees.
    The people I know that are recovered alcoholics have made an incredible commitment and worked hard to over come it. Yes, I strongly believe that there is a definite gentic prediposition to alcoholism and that it can operate an a lot of different levels.
    P probably have the genetic predisposition, coming from a long line of Irishmen who who were definitely alcoholics.
    There have been periods in my life when I know I drank too much and it affected my behavior, but I think I have pretty good relationship with alcohol now. I am far from being a teetotaler, but do drink a few glasses of wine each day.
    I also believe that alcohol use is no excuse for criminal behavior.
    We have a basic responsiblity to take care of ourselves and be able to control our actions. To deny this would be to deny guiltt on any number of factors.
    I of course take into account real mental disease.
    But you could not excuse a junkie for a crime committed to obtain drugs because he was rendered mentally incapacitated by his addiction.

  3. It is easy to sit on the bleachers and rag about 'those' people. At that distance, we do not have to become involved or feel compelled to help solve the problem.

  4. Yes, I agree that taking the attitude that it's "their" problem would be a mistake. We're all affected by this one.

    I believe in protecting society from dangerous people, but people who commit crimes because of drugs and/or alcohol need treatment not punishment. I realize it's tricky because the abusing person would take advantage very quickly if given leniency, and given the opportunity, not recover at all. But, locking them up can't be the answer, IMO.

  5. When you say things like this Mike you disrespect all the people who HAVE had drug and Alcohol problems yet never caused the egregious crimes you are now blaming for substance abuse.

    Certainly an addict of any type will have a MUCH harder time functioning in our society. But in no way does it completely destroy their free-will. Addicts DO need treatment so they can better cope and provide for society, but they also need to pay for their crimes, otherwise it's just an excuse that's easy for abuse.

  6. Mike,

    Could you expand on what you mean by this:

    I believe in protecting society from dangerous people,

    It may be a wording issue or it could be the fundamental difference between viewpoints.

    See, I don't want to protect society from dangerous people, I want to protect society from people who have committed criminal acts.

    People like Weer'd, Nomen, Thomas, myself & even you with your ex-military history could and should be considered dangerous people....but we've done nothing that requires society to be protected against us.

    On the other hand the people who commit crimes over and over again have shown their actions to be a detriment to society.

    Which group of people do we need to protect society from?

    but people who commit crimes because of drugs and/or alcohol need treatment not punishment.

    There are two separate, but yes related, issues here; the addiction and the crimes committed.

    The addiction does need treatment, I agree. But it sounds as if you are saying if a person has an addiction they should escape the consequences of crimes because of that addiction. That I disagree with, I hope it is a matter or wording.

    Shouldn't and isn't the reason crimes are committed taken into consideration during the sentencing phase of a trial?

    I think that locking up the people who continually commit crimes, regardless of the reason, is the answer. Society can learn that we don't have to tolerate crime.

  7. Quit splitting hairs, Bob. Yes we're all dangerous, but you know very well what I mean by protecting society from dangerous people. God knows we've talked about it enough.

    I want leniency for addicts and alcoholics and mentally ill people and kids, while you want everybody to be responsible for their actions. Tell me this, what do you propose about the overcrowding in our prisons? Under your guidelines we'd need to build more. Is that your proposal?

  8. Mike,

    Shows that you are either wrong again or not bothering to read what has been written.

    First, I want most of the "victimless" crimes made legal. Remove the prison time for these and it will go a long ways in reducing overcrowding.

    Legalize most of the "illegal" drugs, tax them and make it an issue of oversight for purity, smuggling, etc. Just like alcohol and tobacco are now.

    Second,This reduces the number of people in jail for the distribution charges, reduces the violence associated with the trafficking of the drugs.

    Third, reduce the use of plea bargaining. Prosecutors should be forced to try the person for the crimes committed. Look at the number of federal gun charges filed and the number of convictions. Prosecutors use them to leverage the person into giving up.

    If the case can't stand, the police and the prosecutors aren't doing their job. The only thing that should be up for discussion is how long will the sentence be.

    Fourth, Remove mandatory sentencing guidelines for most if not all crimes. Make the time fit the crime as the saying goes.

    Fifth, reduce the privileges given in prison. Sorry prisoners shouldn't have more room to live in then the Army or Marines do. Food should be at least better in the military then prison. Reduce the cable channels available to the education and news only.

    Sixth, fix the educational system. People shouldn't graduate without basic skills and literacy. Prevention will keep many people out of jail as the fear of prison. Abolish the public education system as it is now. It's failed in too many cases. Make the tax dollars available to the people, let them send their kids where they want to. Schools will open up to take in the students, successful schools will grow, others will fold.
    Make the system work by requiring tests of logic, reasoning and can "graduate" from high school any time they can pass the exams. Doesn't England do something like this?

    Seventh, demolish welfare as we know it now. It encourages the break up of the family, supports a population that doesn't want to work...not the population that can't. That is a smaller subset of most of the welfare system now. Too many studies have shown how important the two-parent family is to society, we need to encourage that not teen pregnancy.

    Should that cover it or do you want more?

    People should go to jail if their crimes affect others, all actions have consequences. Until that simple lesson is learned and lived by society, we will continue to suffer.

  9. Great comment, Bob.

    Hopefully such a thoughtful and through address of Mike's question won't go ignored as so many have in the past.

  10. Thanks Weer'd

    Just found a great example of a tool being used

    Four Chicago woman were arrested on murder charges for repeatedly shooting to death a man they said "disrespected" them, authorities allege.

    Morris Wilson, 30, was playing cards in 25-year-old Tiffany Cox's apartment early Sunday morning with her and three other women. An argument over a broken cigarette escalated and Wilson was asked to leave, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

    As he walked out the door Wilson allegedly threw a beer at the door, prompting Miesha Nelson, 25, to feel he "disrespected" Cox. She convinced her they needed "to beat him up," Assistant State's Attorney LuAnn Snow told the paper, and the four friends went after him.

    Nelson, armed with a pistol, found Wilson in a nearby courtyard and allegedly stabbed him before passing the weapon to another of the women, Carmelita Hall, 25. Prosecutors say Hall then repeatedly shot Wilson while the others stomped, kicked and punched him, the Sun-Times reported.

    Wilson appeared to have been shot more than 20 times, a source told the newspaper.

    Believing Wilson had money on him, the women allegedly rummaged through his pockets.

    Cox, Nelson, Hall and Roslind Ball, 22, were charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.

    Now after reading it a firearm crime or is it an issue with our culture?

    By the way...I lied, they used a knife and stabbed him...not a gun.,2933,487287,00.html

    Does it change the story any?

    Fix the culture....don't focus on the tools Mike.

  11. Weer'd said, "Hopefully such a thoughtful and through address of Mike's question won't go ignored as so many have in the past."

    I really wish you would get off it, man. Just because I sometimes don't respond doesn't mean I haven't read and considered. I don't ignore and I don't avoid, as you keep saying.

    About Bob's "thorough address," I agree with it up to a point. As you very well know, I don't believe in all this personal responsibility business. Now, that doesn't mean I think people should do whatever they want, which yhou're probably getting ready to accuse me of right now. I believe leniency and compassion are lacking in much of the criminal justice system, especially where addicts or juveniles or white collar guys are concerned.

  12. Mike,

    You think that compassion and leniency are lacking in the JUSTICE SYSTEM?

    You've got to be kidding me! How about getting off your butt and getting back into America for a couple of years. Then you might realize how absolutely ridiculous & incredible that statement is.

    There is too much leniency in the justice system. I know from personal experience with my brother and my nephew.

    My brother likes to write hot checks....had been doing it for a very long time. I watched him go to court time and time again on these charges. The vast majority of the time...over 95%, the "consequence" of his criminal actions was ZIP, NADA, ZILCH. Make the check good, time served and that was it.

    I'm not talking about 1 or 2 checks over a decade, I'm talking about dozens of checks each and every year.

    I could go on, but you seem to miss the compassion and leniency for the victims Sir and that is one of the biggest problems.

    While it's nice to say let's go easy on criminals, try to reform, them...the system isn't doing enough - The truth is the system is set up that way and does too much.

    The light sentences, the expunging of juvenile records, of plea bargaining down charges, of early release for good behavior (what good behavior? they are supposed to obey the rules & when they do, the prison system says that is "good", no it is simply the minimum)...all the system is designed to show people we aren't serious about crime.

    Here is an example from Oregon
    Summary of 34 murder sentences for murders committed between

    11/24/1990 and 4/25/1995 and sentenced under sentencing guidelines:

    Average sentence: 200 months (16.6 years, 13.3 after "good time")

    Minimum sentence: 66 months (5.5 years, 4.4 after "good time")

    Maximum sentence: 388 months (32.3 years, 25.8 after "good time")

    Number of sentences at or below minimum presumptive sentence: 7 (20%)

    Number of prison terms (after "good time") 10 years or less: 14 (41%)

    Number of sentences (after "good time") below Measure 11 minimum: 32 (94%)
    Comments on Statistics

    The data presented demonstrate that it was common under sentencing guidelines for murderers in Oregon to serve prison sentences of 10 years or less. The vast majority of surviving parents, siblings, spouses and friends feel that this is an appalling failure of justice. This is one of the reasons why they support Measure 11

    Average sentence -- 200 months - 16 years for murder. Now wouldn't you agree most criminals don't start out at murder? They work up to it through various crimes, assault, robbery, etc.

    41% of the sentences at or below 10 years....and you want MORE COMPASSION and LENIENCY.

    Why not just let the crooks determine their own sentence.

  13. Also doesn't hold much water that about 90% of all the murders done in this country are done #1 by somebody with a lenthy criminal jacket of violent offences, and #2 the person was currently on parole at the time of the murder.

    I certainly see a lack of compassion for the individuals snuffed out by these feral beasts, and the loved ones who are left behind.

    And I'm sorry mike, but I do think you do dodge tough questions that would expose your flawed position.

    But actions speak louder than words on this issue.

  14. Bob, I hate to do tit for tat on ya, but I think you're the one ignoring data now. Last week I presented this for your enjoyment. The main idea is that there are thousands in America serving 25 to life because they technically fell into that three-strikes rule.

  15. Broken link, Mike.

    Still "Three Strikes" ONLY exists in California....

  16. Also Mike, (again I don't know what you're referencing because of the bad script) you mention Three Strikes, which is a form of Mandatory sentencing guidelines, that both Bob and us are Opposed to because it does create stupidity like people getting 25 years for petty theft.

    So maybe you should re-think your argument and actually respond to us...

  17. I described the argument and I did "actually respond" to you.

    That three felonies rule has thousands in jail for excessively long sentences. That's just one example of what Bob asked for, examples where compassion and leniency are lacking.

    Maybe this is a case of the glass is half full and half empty. You guys see one thing, I see something else.

  18. Mike,

    Perhaps it isn't the 3 strikes rule but what is considered a felony now days that is the problem?

    Remember, the compassion and leniency you call lacking in that rule was the result, in my opinion, of too much leniency and compassion.

    There has to be a limit of how many times a person can break the law before society says enough is enough.

    How many times does a person get to hurt others, take money out of other people's pockets, etc before we say "This person isn't going to learn from a couple of months in jail..didn't in the past, probably won't in the future; Let's see if (s)he will learn from a couple of YEARS". Even if the person doesn't learn from a couple of years in prison, during that time (s)he didn't commit other crimes and society at large saw the consequence for committing crimes.

    Where is the compassion and leniency for the victims? How many times does a town or society have to have it's people beaten or robbed so we can show "compassion" to the "misunderstood" or "abused" "youths".

    In our discussions, you dont' talk about the victims very much....why is that?

  19. Mike,

    Here is another article shooting down your 'sacred cows'. Sorry but it appears that mental illness by itself may not be the reason for violent acts.

    Via Clayton Cramer

    CHICAGO (AP) -- A new large study challenges the idea that mental illness alone is a leading cause of violence.

    Researchers instead blame a combination of factors, specifically substance abuse and a history of violent acts, that drives up the danger when combined with mental illness in what they call an "intricate link."

    So, not only is mental illness not an excuse...perhaps something that people can control - substance abuse contributes to that...Can people control their use or abuse of substances Mike?

    Elbogen compiled a "top 10" list of things that predict violent behavior, based on the analysis.

    Younger age topped the list. History of violence came next, followed by male gender, history of juvenile detention, divorce or separation in the past year, history of physical abuse, parental criminal history and unemployment in the past year. Rounding out the list were severe mental illness with substance abuse and being a crime victim in the past year.

    Juvenile detention, separation or divorce, physical abuse, parental criminal history - it struck me that some many of those factors are societal issues that can be controlled -- many by the measures I've previously mentioned.

    So while treatment is definitely called for when dealing with mental illness....many of those factors are ones that are in control of the people themselves, re substance abuse.

    Shouldn't those decisions which increase the risk of violence be met with appropriate consequences?

  20. Bob, You said, "In our discussions, you dont' talk about the victims very much....why is that?"

    It's simple Bob. In our discussions we're not talking about the victims. We're talking about the offenders and the laws and the guns. We could talk about the victims sometime. But your question seems to indicate that you find some problem with my not talking about them. That's wrong, Bob. And my not talking about them does not indicate anything at all about my feelings about them one way or the other. I could have plenty of compassion for the crime victims, just like I do for MS sufferers, but we're talking about other stuff.

    And about mental illness not being the only factor, well of course it's not. I often point out that there is no single factor in any of these things. Gun availability is only one factor, just like mental illness is just one. Again you seem to be putting words in my mouth, words that I haven't said.