Is working as a porn star the cure for mental health issues?

Did any of you catch a story the other day claiming that a study of porn actresses showed that they’re happier and better adjusted than their non-porn peers?

The report in the Journal of Sex Research found that porn stars are not more likely to have psychological problems than other women.

In fact, they discovered those in the sex entertainment industry had a more positive outlook on life with higher self-confidence and more flattering views on their body image.

‘In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction and spirituality compared to the matched group,’ the report summarises.

Wow!

The way that study reads, it sounds as if those dealing with depression or other mental health issues should head for the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, home of myriad porn studios, rather than seeking out more traditional options, such as a therapist, anti-depressants, or, in more serious cases, a full-care residential facility.  Sadly, we have a thread of depression running through my family’s history, and various family members have (or could have) benefited from some or all three options.

Such options weren’t always available, of course.  My mother’s maternal uncle and her paternal grandmother both suffered greatly from mental illnesses that were probably bi-polar disorder in his case and histrionic personality disorder in her case.  The Nazis dealt with these problems quite efficiently by killing my great-uncle and great, great grandmother.  I don’t know about my father’s family’s mental health history, although most of them ended up being killed by the Nazis too.  Maybe all of them could have avoided these fates if they’d become happy porn stars.

Let me say that I don’t believe this study at all.  For one thing, it’s got a very small sampling:  171 porn actresses.  For another thing, these actresses were compared to some magical “average” woman.  Lastly, I’m dubious about this kind of self-reported happiness, given the lives they lead.  I know people who practice . . . hmmm . . . let’s say “alternate” sexual lives.  These women tell me, almost aggressively, that they’re “happy” with their choices and that having myriad sexual encounters with nameless, faceless men makes them feel like sex goddesses.

That’s what they say.  What I see are women who rely heavily on pot and other drugs to maintain an anesthetized distances from their life choices.  Indeed, the study acknowledges greater drug use amongst the porn actresses studied:

While the report challenged the stereotype of porn actresses as drug addicts, drug use was found to be more prevalent among the entertainers. They were more likely to have tried ten different types of drugs compared to the control group.

These women also age much more rapidly than their cleaner-living peers.  I don’t know if it’s the sex or the drugs, but you can tell that they’ve been around the block a few thousand times.

Of course, if you report yourself as happy, maybe you are happy.  After all, our emotional well-being is a state-of-mind and, as the saying goes, mind over matter works:  if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.  If these women are convinced that they’re not prematurely aged, substance using (not necessarily “abusing,” but “using) people whose lives are defined by their exhibitionist sexual habits, but are, instead, desirable, beautiful women, than I guess they are — their perception of reality defines their reality.

We know, though, that young girls who are sexually promiscuous are less happy than their peers.  Hearing that porn stars are happy shouldn’t be used as an indicator that exhibitionism is a recipe for happiness.  At most, with such a small sampling, the study shows that people with unusual predilections have found their niche.  Most people, I suspect, would find that niche to be a very demoralizing place, indeed, and certainly not a panacea for depression or just routine unhappiness.

Let’s do the time warp again — Progressives keep urging those failed economic policies

The Huffington Post is one of the ugliest websites I’ve ever seen.  I’m not talking about content (although I’ll get to that), but about its layout.  The left-most column (and that turns out to be a very clever pun on my part) actually has some visual stability, insofar as it allows the hapless visitor to grasp what content the various blogs are offering.  The central column and right columns, however, are a disorganized amalgam of pictures and one- or two-word summaries of underlying stories.  Even I, an adept at reading the internet, find that these summaries range from cryptic to unintelligible.  Even worse, they keep resetting automatically, so it’s difficult to find a story that, one or two minutes before, might have caught my interest.

Having had occasion to read the substantive articles at HuffPo, I’m beginning to wonder whether this home page chaos is intentional, insofar as it’s meant to keep people away from content.  I mean, if I was the one publishing Robert Kuttner’s article about the American economy, I’d be so embarrassed as the publisher that I too would want to use subterfuge and prestidigitation to keep people away.

Kuttner, bless his little ol’ heart, is someone who seems to have missed the last 80 years.  More than that, he’s missed any sophisticated analysis of the last 80 years.  His economic understanding is rooted in post-New Deal 8th grade American history textbooks that assured credulous youngsters that even FDR’s best efforts at centralizing America’s economy failed, making WWII an economic necessity.  I kid you not:

Something similar [to today's economic problems] happened in the late 1930s. Though economic growth returned, it wasn’t strong enough to repair the damage of the Great Depression or create enough jobs. Despite the New Deal, unemployment remained stuck at around 12 percent.

World War II solved the problem — it was the greatest accidental economic stimulus in economic history. It put people back to work, retrained the unemployed, and recapitalized industry. But today, there is nothing in the wings waiting to play the role of the Second World War.

During the war, federal deficits averaged more than 25 percent of GDP, nearly triple today’s deficits. But that’s what it took to blast out of the depression. After the war, high growth rates paid down the accumulated national debt.

Anyone who had read Amity Shlaes’ very accessible The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression knows that Kuttner’s view of the 1930s is based upon Progressive propaganda, rather than economic facts. Shlaes cut through this gauzy reminiscent haze about the glories of New Deal Democratic politics, and looked at the economic numbers in the 1930s.

With actual data, Shlae’s ably demonstrates that Hoover, like Roosevelt, tried to manage the post-crash economy, and with equally deleterious results. Fortunately, because he was essentially conservative, Hoover’s efforts were tentative, and therefore not deeply destructive.  Sadly, the 1932 election came along before the economy had a chance to right itself from Hoover’s tepid efforts at market management.

With FDR’s New Deal firmly in place, there was no hope. FDR sucked money out of the economy and into the government, paralyzing wealth creation.  Since this economic experiment was the first of its kind in America, however, and because people bought into FDR’s ebullience and optimism (something sadly lacking in the dour, accusatory man living in the White House today), people cheered the sizzle and ignored the fact that it was, in fact, a scratchy recording, unaccompanied by actual steak.

When World War II came along, it had the virtue of providing almost full employment for the American public. Significantly, although the government was writing the checks, this wasn’t make-work. The U.S. needed to build ships, tanks, planes, and weapons, and it needed bodies in the field. In other words, this was the rare occasion when a centralized command and control economy was geared towards efficiency, rather than simply producing low employment numbers.

Normally, the opposite is true — that is, output is irrelevant — in a government-run economy. Milton Friedman nailed the problem with a government’s make-work “economy” when he delivered his pithy challenge to the whole notion of “shovel-ready jobs”:

Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”

Busy work does not create economic dynamism. It simply allows a government to boast about its low unemployment. Eventually, the government runs out of money, and then you have . . . Greece.

What Kuttner also fails to grasp with his erroneous Depression/WWII analysis is that part of the US’s enormous economic success in the post-war era was the fact that it was the only Western or Eastern country that hadn’t seen its infrastructure (and population) destroyed by the War. England and Germany, which had led the free world in manufacturing before the War, had seen virtually every one of their factories wiped out. Those few English factories that survived the war were firmly rooted in the 19th Century, and the stagnant socialist economy that followed the war meant that these factories stayed mired in the past.

WWII  also spelled the end of Empire.  England and other former imperialist powers didn’t have their previous unemployment safety valves, nor did they have ready access to the rare materials that had once powered their manufacturing.

Russia had lost perhaps 20,000,000 people, which was a heavy burden when added to the 20-30,000,000 that Stalin killed in the 30s. Add to this the inefficiencies of a Communist “economy,” and you can see that Russia wasn’t going to stand in America’s way.

In other words, it wasn’t just that America was so good after the war; it was also that everything else was so bad. Right now, under Obama, we have the worst of all possible worlds, which is that both America and the rest of the world are in dire straits. By copying the world’s disastrous economies, America is unable to rise above them.

In addition to misunderstanding the 30s, 40s, and 50s, Kuttner seems to have slept through the 80s and the aughts. I vividly remember Jimmy Carter’s malaise economy, consisting in equal parts of inflation and stagflation. I remember, too, the uproar when Reagan insisted on unleashing capitalism’s power. Sublimely locked into my juvenile Leftism, I absolutely refused to acknowledge that it was Reagan’s commitment to the marketplace that enabled me, a young lawyer, to step into a thriving economy, complete with an obscene salary. I’m glad to say that, in 2001, when Bush pushed through his tax cuts, I’d matured enough to realize that the best way to allow economic growth is to trust “We, the people” with the money, leaving to the government the job of creating a stable environment that doesn’t see wealth creators (individuals and businesses) constantly trying to hide their money from an avaricious, inefficient, frequently corrupt bureaucracy.

Working from a mountain of ignorance, amnesia, misconceptions, and misapprehensions, Kuttner assures HuffPo’s hapless readers that the only way to end Obama’s economy is to raise taxes on the producers and have the government provide jobs for the unemployed — unaware, apparently, that this is precisely what Roosevelt did in 1932, and what led to a 12 year long Depression:

What’s needed today is a massive investment program, to shift the economy to a clean energy path, modernize infrastructure, increase productivity — and along the way create millions of good jobs and restore consumer purchasing power. Then, the vicious circle could be reversed.

The problem is that neither party is proposing such a program. It is entirely outside mainstream debate.

President Obama is willing to have the federal government spend more money. But he has partly bought the story that deficit reduction has to come first. The Republicans would further gut the public sector.

Contrary to the conventional view that deficit reduction would somehow “restore confidence” and increase business investment, that’s not how economies work. Businesses invest when they see customers with open wallets. Though the Congressional Budget Office projects higher growth returning around 2014, it bases these projections on a “return to trend.” There is no plausible story about where the higher growth will come from.

Kuttner is certain that, if Obama can just get four more years, everyone in America will eventually get a spoon. Then the American people can start digging their little holes, and the government can boast about its Soviet-style full employment.

A couple more fallacies in Kuttner’s thinking:

First, Kuttner, who insists that WWII was the best economic engine possible, was against the War in Iraq. Why was that? He should have been celebrating the economic opportunities, and shilled it as WWIII.

Second, Kuttner, in common with all the Progressives, keeps nattering on about revitalizing America’s infrastructure with “green” energy products. He makes this argument even though (a) the government’s “green energy” bets have failed at a terrible cost to the American budget (Solyndra, anyone?); and (b) the strangulation of rules and regulations (especially environmental rules and regs) in the last 30 years means that it’s virtually impossible to complete a big infrastructure job, or even to begin one.

As to the malignant effect of hyper-regulation, here’s just one example proving that the Hoover Dam era is dead and gone: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge partially collapsed in 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. That collapse proved conclusively that the original eastern half of the Bridge (built in 1936) was a seismic disaster.

In a pre-regulatory era, it’s very likely that the Bridge could have been rebuilt, both quickly and economically. In modern American, though, by the time the new structure is completed (maybe) in September 2013, it will have taken 24 years to rebuild just half the bridge, at a cost no less than $6.3 billion — a mere $6.1 billion dollars over the original estimate.

Kuttner’s post is the triumph of theory over fact. Kuttner was clearly the good little boy back in the 1970s, carefully studying his generic history textbook, and locking away in his brain forever all the Leftist fallacies about economic growth and the glory days of a government controlled economy. He is the poster child for the fact that, while the first Obama term has pushed us to the edge of the economic cliff, a second one will most assuredly push us over.

Is a familial genetic legacy the right reason not to have a baby? No! *UPDATED*

PJ Media has had two interesting posts about whether familial genetic legacies are the right reason not to have a baby.  David Swindle passes on an article about the fact that well-known “comedienne” Sarah Silverman (I use the scare quotes because I don’t think she’s funny) announced recently that she will not have children because she and her family have a history of depression.  Silverman can’t bear the thought that any children she has might suffer the same fate.  Conservative blogger Kathy Shaidle also thinks that her family’s genetic possibilities — in her case, shortness — makes having babies a bad deal for the babies.  (Shaidle offers up a number of other reasons why she wouldn’t have a baby, all of which make it clear that she’s thought the subject through carefully and really isn’t the maternal type.)

Neither woman is concerned about a life-threatening genetic problem, the kind that mandates that the child will suffer terribly and die young.  Both are concerned, though, about traits that have affected the quality of their otherwise successful lives.  Within this framework, Silverman and Shaidle are both wrong.  There are many reasons not to have children, but their genetic concerns aren’t the right reasons.

To begin with, there’s no guarantee that a child will inherit whatever genetic problem exists in the family.  Keep in mind that babies aren’t clones.  They are, instead, the end result of thousands of years of genetic mix-ups.  My great-grandmother had fraternal twin girls.  One was six feet tall, the other five feet tall.  They represented the two genetic extremes in just one family line.  I’m five feet tall.  My (male) cousins on the maternal side hover around 6’7″.  They married short women; I married a tall man.  All of our children are clocking in at average.  Nature does what nature does.  We can make some educated Mendelian guesses about the probable outcome when a couple have a baby, but those are just that — guesses.

Things get scary when we take those guesses out of the hypothetical realm (“I’ll never get pregnant because of this-or-that possibility”) and into the realm of making affirmative decisions about those little fetuses (“I’m pregnant and I know what’s wrong.”).  On the Today Show, Nancy Snyderman, the science correspondent, waxed enthusiastic about plucking “defective” babies out of the womb:

SNYDERMAN: Well, you might learn that a child has a severe genetic problem. It gives parents a chance to decide whether they’re going to continue that pregnancy or not. This is the science of today. It is running fast into the future. And I think the future will be such that you’ll find out that your child may have a genetic hit. You can fix that genetic problem, and improve your chance, a child’s chance of having a healthier –

STAR JONES: When will you know about this?

SNYDERMAN: Well, it’s out there now but it’s too expensive.

DONNY DEUTSCH: But obviously there’s another flip side guys, there’s another flip — Look, I’m a pro-choice guy, but at the end of the day what’s stopping people, “Oh, my son is going to be blond, I want — ” You’ve got to do it for the reasons you’re talking about, but –

SNYDERMAN: I get the genetic-engineering issue. But the reality is we’ve already jumped out of that with amniocentesis.

JONES: Correct.

SNYDERMAN: So, the science is there. The problem is that science goes faster than we have these societal questions. And that’s exactly why we should have these societal questions now.

Donny Deutsch may be a liberal, but he honed in like a laser-guided missile with his question which, rephrased, is “who’s to decide what constitutes a defect sufficient to justify terminating a nascent life?”  Snyderman pretty much brushed him off.  Her answer, rephrased, was “with knowledge comes power.”

Snyderman is obviously an acolyte of the Peter Singer school of ethics/eugenics.  Peter Singer holds an endowed chair at Princeton, which means that he daily gets the opportunity to sell his views to the best and the brightest, young people who move on from Princeton to positions of power and responsibility.  This matters, because his academic output includes such books as Should the Baby Live?: The Problem of Handicapped Infants (Studies in Bioethics), Animal Liberation and In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave.  The title of that first-listed book — Should the Baby Live? — pretty much sums up the man’s philosophy:  he advocates euthanizing handicapped infants.  He is, of course, reviled by the handicapped community (and rightly so).

The moral abyss Singer creates with his euthanasia musings is highlighted by the fact that his animal liberation writings make him a founding father of the animal rights movement — a movement that’s come to full flower in PETA insanity (which analogizes the death of chickens to the death of Jews in Hitler’s gas chambers). Singer explicitly believes that a healthy animal has greater rights than a sick person.  If you need a further insight into Singer’s warped world — and let me remind you that this warped world gives him tremendous status in academia, not to mention worldwide accolades — Singer has no moral problem with bestiality, provided that the animal consents, an attitude that places him at odds with the same animal rights movement he was so instrumental in creating.

I recognize that there’s a difference between refraining from pregnancy because you, the potential parent, are concerned about a hypothetical birth defect, and aborting a baby that is actually proven to have that defect.  The problem is defining “defect,” which leads me to the second reason Silverman and Shaidle are wrong in deciding not to have babies because of family genetic histories.

The fact is that one person’s “defect” is another person’s opportunity.  For example, the Time article to which PJ Media links makes clear that there’s a connection between depression and creativity:

But what the commenters didn’t mention is that the same genes that can cause depression may also encourage the sensitivity and sensibility that gives Silverman her creative talent. Indeed, some research suggests that the same exact genetics that might lead to depression can also lead to mental superhealth, depending on whether a person endured high stress in early childhood or had a calmer, more nurturing environment.

I can actually speak to that point.  Some of you may have noticed that my blogging has dropped off in the past six weeks.  I don’t believe that the timing is random.  Six weeks ago, I started taking tricyclics to deal with chronic, aggressive, and debilitating migraines.  I’m happy to report that the medicine has worked.  My migraines haven’t dropped to zero, but having two mild headaches in six weeks is an extraordinary reprieve from the pain and sickness that was dogging me.

That’s the up side.  The down side is that I’m having a much harder time writing.  The sizzling connections that use to race across my brain and come pouring out onto my keyboard are gone.  I sense them, but I can’t grasp them.  You see, tricyclics are antidepressants.  Although I’m taking a fraction of the clinical dose for depression (about 0.1 of the clinical dose), the medicine is still working on those parts of the brain that would have produced depression and that apparently do produce creativity.  I’m flattened out.  Not completely, but significantly.

I’m currently making the choice to lose some of my creativity in favor of freedom from pain and sickness.  But it’s my choice.  I’m a sentient being and I can make these decisions.  I’m neither a “never was” that never even got conceived or, worse, an “almost was” that got aborted.  In a year or so, I’ll try going off the medicine and see whether my brain has stopped being hysterical, so that I can be both pain free or creative.  Again, it will be my choice.  I live in hope.

Oh, and that bit about hope — it’s the third reason that Silverman and Shaidle are wrong to make genetics a reason not to have children.  Medical advances mean that the same problem that debilitated grandma, and inconvenienced mom, may be nothing to the child.  Having a baby is always a gamble.  We gamble that we’ll stay healthy, that they’ll stay healthy, and that the world will stay healthy.  We gamble that, when we read a horrible headline about a school bus accident, that this type of accident will never happen to our family.  There are no certainties in life.  Just as there’s no way of knowing whether a pregnancy will result in a child with a genetic problem, there’s also no way of knowing whether, in that child’s life, there won’t be a solution.

Anyway, some things don’t need a solution.  I’m only an inch taller than Shaidle, but I’ve found it a problem only when buying a car.  I’ve ended up buying Japanese cars, not only because I like their suspension and reliability, but also because they’re the only cars that have seats that raise up enough that I don’t need to sit on a pillow.  If there weren’t Japanese cars, then I guess I’d sit on a pillow.  Other than that, and the occasional frustration when a tall person sits in front of me at a show, I’ve never felt handicapped by being short.  Heck, I’ve never even felt short.  I have a large personality, which more than compensates for any height deficiencies.  Indeed, it’s so large that most people are quite surprised to learn that I’m “only” 5 feet tall.

Even if medical advances can’t help (or pillows aren’t available), what exists within a person may well be the determining factor in that person’s success.  My uncle was a genius with four fully operating limbs — and he was a complete failure in life, poisoned by a combination of Communism and his own character flaws.  At the other extreme is the amazing, inspirational Nick Vujicic, who was born with only a single little flipper.  Nick does more with that flipper, and with his incandescent personality, than most whole-bodied people can ever hope to do.  We wouldn’t have missed him if he’d been aborted.  That is, no one would have gone around saying, “Gosh, it’s a shame that Nick Vujicic was never born.”  However, his birth, and the message of hope that he shares, is something valuable and, knowing him and what he does, we can definitely say that the world would have been less light-filled without him.

If you don’t want to have babies, don’t have them.  On the down side, they’re hard work, messy, frustrating, and expensive.  (The up side, which all parents know, is for another post.)  Just don’t use your genetic weaknesses as the justification for your decision.

UPDATE:  A true update, regarding an event I attended the same evening I wrote this post.

Condemning us to repeat the past

The liberal press and “economists” such as Paul Krugman are so excited:  Obama is looking to FDR for guidance.  Before Obama gets too carried away with that notion, conservatives should send him copies of Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man : a New History of the Great Depression, in which she compellingly explains how FDR’s endless messing with the market and expansion of the government prolonged and worsened the Depression.  For a quick summary of the principles underlying Shlaes’ thesis, you can read this WSJ article she just wrote.