Archive for the ‘Research’ Category.

Inflammation and Body Weight

Inflammation plays a critical role in determining how we digest food, and it’s only now starting to reveal itself.

it is becoming clear that some people’s guts are simply more efficient than others’ at extracting calories from food. When two people eat the same 3,000-calorie pizza, for example, their bodies absorb different amounts of energy. And those calorie-converting abilities can change over a person’s lifetime with age and other variables.

The question is, why? And is it possible to make changes, if a person wanted to?

If so, the solution will involve the trillions of microbes in our intestines and how they work in concert with another variable that’s just beginning to get attention. The immune system determines levels of inflammation in the gut that are constantly shaping the way we digest food—how many calories get absorbed, and how many nutrients simply pass through.

The relationship between microbes and weight gain has long been overlooked in humans, but people have known about similar effects in animals for decades.

. . .

In 2006, Jeffrey Gordon, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, reported that the microbiomes of obese mice had something in common: Compared with their lean counterparts, the heavier mice had fewer Bacteroides and more Firmicutes species in their guts. What’s more, biochemical analyses showed that this ratio made the microbes better at “energy harvest”—essentially, extracting calories from food and passing it into the body. That is, even when mice ate the same amount and type of food, the bacterial populations meant that some developed metabolic problems, while others didn’t. Similar bacterial patterns have since been confirmed in obese humans.

What’s more, Gordon found, the microbiome associated with obesity is transferable. In 2013, his lab took gut bacteria from pairs of human twins in which only one twin was obese, then fed the samples to mice. The mice given bacteria from the obese humans quickly gained weight. The others did not.

The Fundamental Link Between Body Weight and the Immune System


Lora Hooper (UT Southwestern) 1: Mammalian gut microbiota: Mammals and their symbiotic gut microbes


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Scientific discoveries in recent years suggest that some serious conditions could be cured by adding “good” bacteria to your digestive tract. Now several companies are racing to develop drugs that do so.

It’s a jungle in there: massive populations of microbes, immune cells, and cells of the gut tissue are interacting and exchanging countless chemical and physical signals. Disruptions to this complex ecosystem, often called the microbiome, have been linked not only to gastrointestinal problems but also to metabolic, immunological, and even neurological disorders.

One such problem, which occurs when a very common species of bacteria, Clostridium difficile, colonizes the gut and becomes too abundant, can be cured by adding good bacteria to the digestive tract—but the method for doing so requires a transplant of another person’s feces, and the reasons it works are not well understood. The next generation of microbiome medicines will instead be “real drugs” that are “easy to take, clean, and safe,” says Roger Pomerantz, CEO of Seres Therapeutics.

Companies Aim to Make Drugs from Bacteria That Live in the Gut

Fermented food is good for your microbiome

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Victim Culture

BACK in 1993, the misanthropic art critic Robert Hughes published a grumpy, entertaining book called “Culture of Complaint,” in which he predicted that America was doomed to become increasingly an “infantilized culture” of victimhood. It was a rant against what he saw as a grievance industry appearing all across the political spectrum.

I enjoyed the book, but as a lifelong optimist about America, was unpersuaded by Mr. Hughes’s argument. I dismissed it as just another apocalyptic prediction about our culture.

Unfortunately, the intervening two decades have made Mr. Hughes look prophetic and me look naïve.
. . .
So who cares if we are becoming a culture of victimhood? We all should. To begin with, victimhood makes it more and more difficult for us to resolve political and social conflicts. The culture feeds a mentality that crowds out a necessary give and take — the very concept of good-faith disagreement — turning every policy difference into a pitched battle between good (us) and evil (them).

The Real Victims of Victimhood, by Arthur C. Brooks

A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character, by Charles J. Sykes

So let me get this straight. You were unanimous in saying that you want your school to be a place where people feel free to speak up, even if you strongly dislike their views. But you don’t have such a school. In fact, you have exactly the sort of “tolerance” that Herbert Marcuse advocated [which I had discussed in my lecture, and which you can read about here]. You have a school in which only people in the preferred groups get to speak, and everyone else is afraid. What are you going to do about this? Let’s talk.
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Their high schools have thoroughly socialized them into what sociologists call victimhood culture, which weakens students by turning them into “moral dependents” who cannot deal with problems on their own. They must get adult authorities to validate their victim status.
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The only hope for Centerville High — and for Yale — is to disrupt their repressively uniform moral matrices to make room for dissenting views. High schools and colleges that lack viewpoint diversity should make it their top priority. Race and gender diversity matter too, but if those goals are pursued in the ways that student activists are currently demanding, then political orthodoxy is likely to intensify. Schools that value freedom of thought should therefore actively seek out non-leftist faculty, and they should explicitly include viewpoint diversity and political diversity in all statements about diversity and discrimination. Parents and students who value freedom of thought should take viewpoint diversity into account when applying to colleges. Alumni should take it into account before writing any more checks.

The Yale problem refers to an unfortunate feedback loop: Once you allow victimhood culture to spread on your campus, you can expect ever more anger from students representing victim groups, coupled with demands for a deeper institutional commitment to victimhood culture, which leads inexorably to more anger, more demands, and more commitment. But the Yale problem didn’t start at Yale. It started in high school.

Campus Turmoil Begins in High School, by Jonathan Haidt

At the bottom of so many people’s unhappiness is a big reservoir of self-pity. Much of the depression, anxiety, and anger that so many suffer stems from deeply ingrained habits of self-pity and its concomitant narcissism.

There are exceptions of course. Not everyone who is depressed is full of self-pity. But, everyone who is full of self-pity is depressed. Depression grows on self-pity like apples grow on the apple tree. The only way to rid yourself of the poisoned fruit is to tear up the roots that produce it.

How do we do that?

Let me suggest three things.

First, have reasonable expectations.
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Second, understand that to decenter self-pitying thoughts, you must replace them with something else. That something else is gratitude.
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Third, focus on your duties, your goals, your plans and not on what troubles you.

Self-Pity and How to Overcome It


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World Cup 2014 and Brazil – Bread, Circuses, Crony Capitalism, Edifice Complex

If professional sports aren’t euvoluntary enough to survive on their own merits, then maybe more of us should hit the big orgs like FIFA, the NFL, and the NCAA where it hurts: right smack dab in the pocketbook. We may not have favelas in the States, but we do have a large, nearly unanimous literature that clearly states: “independent work on the economic impact of stadiums and arenas has uniformly found that there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development.” (Siegfried & Zimbalist, JEP 2000)

World Cup Woe

Continue reading ‘World Cup 2014 and Brazil – Bread, Circuses, Crony Capitalism, Edifice Complex’ »

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Asian American Discrimination


[M]ost elite universities have maintained a triple standard in college admissions, setting the bar highest for Asians, next for whites, and lowest for blacks and Hispanics.

The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges–and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates
, by Daniel Golden



Nothing to see here, move along….

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When Angry, Redistributionists Tend to Plot Revenge. For Them, Voting Might Indeed Be the “Best Revenge.”

It is not surprising that President Obama, a strong proponent of doing more to equalize incomes, would speak about voting as the “best revenge.” After all, as I explored in “What Drives Views on Government Redistribution and Anti-capitalism: Envy or a Desire for Social Dominance?” (available at SSRN), strong proponents of income leveling are more likely than strong opponents to admit that when they are angry, they plot revenge. The data come from the 1996 General Social Survey, which asked about 900 respondents about their emotional and psychological makeup.

When Angry, Redistributionists Tend to Plot Revenge. For Them, Voting Might Indeed Be the “Best Revenge.”

Rubes and infantile….

Yeah, income leveling and government wealth redistribution always work. What could go wrong when “your heart is in the right place”? See, e.g., Mao: Psychopath.


Tips for Conducting Advocacy, Issue and Legislative Research

The way in which you conduct research as part of your efforts to lobby for a particular issue can have an important effect on the outcome of that issue. Extreme care must be exercised when preparing any research that will be utilized.

Grasshopper on a stone table
Creative Commons License photo credit: AlexYo1968

First, double-check and verify everything. This includes the names of individuals, organizations, Internet web pages, etc. Such elements can easily be misspelled or mistaken. Take the time to perform a second check.

In addition, always take confidentiality into consideration. Information can be rapidly forwarded as a part of today’s electronic world. Not only can information be leaked to the media, but it can also be forwarded to opposing interests. A good rule to follow is to make certain you never place anything in writing that you would not want to see on the front page of The Washington Post.

As you go about the process of verifying information, be certain that you keep a comprehensive record of all of your references. Operate under the assumption that your information will be highly scrutinized in public. Consider your sources carefully. Remember that not everything you read, especially in regards to the Internet, can be trusted.

Also consider the political agenda of any organization that provides information to you. Take the time to research the organization to obtain insight regarding their political leanings.

Never forward any document that has been prepared by anyone else without first providing proper attribution.

You should also always consider where your information Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelakmay ultimately land. Even though the information you prepare may be directed to a specific member of Congress or staff person, it is entirely possible that information may be forwarded to someone else.

When conducting research, make sure you are relevant as well as concise. Your information should be tailored specifically to the interests of the policymaker. Whenever possible, try to use information from that Senator’s state or Representative’s own district. Ultimately, they are concerned with how information will affect their constituents.

Finally, clarify expectations and deadlines in advance. Be sure you know precisely the purpose of your information and how the information will be used.

To conduct more effective and more efficient research, consider one of TheCapitol.Net’s Research Workshops.

Reference: Section 5.4 Special Considerations for Legislative Research, in Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak


For more information about research skills training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

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Understanding Legislative History

Legislative history involves the proceedings in Congress that relate to a law before it was actually enacted. This can include official reports prepared by congressional committees as well as official statements that are issued by members of Congress.

Time Gate
Creative Commons License photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Legislative history may also include testimony given at legislative hearings, and different versions of the text of a bill as it was shaped through the legislative process.

While legislative history can provide a wealth of information, it can also be problematic when it is used as evidence of legislative intent. One of the reasons for this is that a committee report only provides the view of a few legislators that belong to one chamber. Furthermore, an individual statement only offers the view of that single member.

Due to the number of problems that can arise from legislative history, a court typically only uses legislative history as a guide to intent when it must make a decision between multiple possible plausible meanings.

Courts sometimes look to legislative history even if there is only one possible meaning. This can sometimes occur for the purpose of confirming the plain meaning. The Supreme Court has been consistent in saying that legislative history can be used as evidence for legislative intent, provided that it is not used for the purpose of overturning a plain meaning.

What is the meaning of “plain meaning”? The plain meaning of a statute refers to the “ordinary or natural Legislative Drafters Deskbook by Tobias Dorseymeaning.” Natural meaning refers to a meaning that is not literal but is instead the common sense meaning. The ordinary meaning of a statute refers to the meaning in terms of an idiomatic sense or the same way that an ordinary person might commonly speak.

When the Court uses legislative history as evidence of legislative intent, it is usually for the purpose of reinforcing or confirming plain meaning. The Court typically understands that the views that are expressed by certain members of Congress are not the views of Congress as a whole. With that said, the views of some members of Congress can help to shape the views of others and even influence votes. As a result, legislative history can be important not because of what was previously written or said by lawmakers, but because it was read or heard by other lawmakers.

To learn more about legislative history, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, How to Research and Compile Legislative Histories; Searching for Legislative Intent, and their publication Statutory Construction and Interpretation.

Reference: Section 3.72 Legislative History: Why It is Problematic, in Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook, by Tobias Dorsey.


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“Swallowing Clouds,” by A. Zee

A playful journey through Chinese culture, language, and cuisine … In “Swallowing Clouds”, A. Zee

invites us to a veritable Chinese banquet full of charming explorations of food, language, and culture. Beginning with simple dishes from a typical restaurant menu, Zee launches into an engrossing voyage of discoveries about Chinese language and cuisine. With folklore and anecdotes, he uncovers the roots of Chinese characters in ancient pictographs, giving an absorbing and effortless introduction to written Chinese.

… why eating “won-tons” is like swallowing clouds … he traces the origin and legend of the dish “Ma Po To Fu” pages 174-179 … you will be able to recognize the Chinese characters on menus … did you know that red hot peppers were imported by the Portuguese from Central America to Sichuan, China! Ay caramba …

Also see “eating in chinese” for a good overview of Chinese characters on menus and restaurants