31 January 2020

B-Cycle Ends In Denver (Briefly)

The plan was established in 2010 and ended at about 700 bikes. A shift to a publicly bid monopoly provider for scooters and bike sharing is to be bid. From here.

US Postal Service Employment Update

2018 Total 634,447 Career 497,157.

2007 Total 786,000 Career 685,000.

1999 Total 906,000 Career 798,000.

19 year drop: Total -271,553 (-30.0%) Career -300,843 (-37.7%).

19 year increase in U.S. population: +17.15%.

19 year drop per capita: Total -40.3% Career -46.8%.

There is no good reason to think that U.S. Postal Service employment cuts will not continue.

Note that not only is this a significant decline, it is a significant decline is well paying jobs with benefits disproportionately filled by men who are military veterans and do not have college degrees, a demographic that has been particular hurt by economic trends since the mid-1970s.

30 January 2020

Promising Developments In Medical Science

While the economic structure of the health care industry in the United States is profoundly broken, medical technology globally continues to show progress, potentially curing or greatly improving treatment for many serious health problems and our understanding of the human body. 

Facebook links

Here are some recent ones culled from stories I've shared on Facebook since September 21, 2019 alone.

* A second person with HIV has been cured.

* Human trials for an HIV vaccine that could be on the market as soon as 2021 are underway. (They wouldn't be perfectly effective, but would reduce infection rates by 50%-60% in immunized individuals.)

* An immune system based treatment for cancer which has shown success in animal models may be effective against a wide variety of cancer types. A similar therapy cures lupus in mice.

* Progress has been made in treating pancreatic cancer.

* A new, less invasive and more effective breast cancer detection technology called thermography has been invented.

* We are starting to understand the biochemical causes of aging which when tinkered with can make nematodes like five times longer than they do.

* An artificial kidney has been invented.

* Average human body temperature in the United States has decreased by about 0.03 ºC per decade since the U.S. Civil War, probably due to changes in metabolism.

* A "universal" flu vaccine that is effective against many strains of the flu virus for long periods of time has been developed and proven effective in mouse models.

* Cancer mortality has been steadily declining as prevention measures and treatments have improved.

* Clean air regulations have saved lots and lots of lives.

* Anti-malaria drugs are getting better.

* We understand much better how a person's DNA can change during their life due to a bone marrow transplant.

* We've learned that wine drinking helps prevent cavities and sore throats.

* Alcohol, coffee and being overweight (within reason) may help you live longer.

* Many herbs and spices have anti-microbial properties.

* Progress has been made in regrowing tooth enamel.

Blog Links

Meanwhile, to recap other developments from this blog:

* We are just a few years away from a safe and effective chlamydia vaccine

* It is possible to distinguish with brain scans between subtypes of clinical depression that are and are not responsive to SSRI anti-depressants. It is possible to distinguish with a simple eye dilation in response to words test which cases of depression will respond best to talk therapies.

* Herpes appears to be one of the significant causes of Alzheimer's disease (potentially 50% or more of the cases observed), and effect of herpes that may be possible to minimize with anti-viral drugs. Insulin related diseases like diabetes are an Alzheimer's disease risk factor. Another major risk factor for Alzheimer's appears to be copper exposure

* Two kinds of herpes viruses cause cancer. One in eight cases of cancer may have a viral cause (another estimate is one in six cases).

* A different study identified nematode biochemical tweaks that makes it possible to double their lifespans. Depression is a major cause of shortened life spans in nematodesNaked mole rats and Greenland sharks also provide insights into the biology of aging.

* Metformin, usually used to treat diabetes type II, can also be effective as a cancer drug. Aspirin can prevent skin cancer.

* More on HIV vaccines.

* Usually obesity is unhealthy and being thin is healthy, but there are individuals who are exceptions to the general rule. Obesity has a strong genetic componentCold virus exposure as a child may also be important. A powerful new diet drug is in human trials. More on obesity causation here.

* Lots of mental health and cognitive health conditions have well measured hereditary components, some of which are quite high. 

* Gene therapy can cure M.S. in mice. More M.S. drug pathways. More M.S. drugs.

* A single chemical that is pivotal in extending the time frame in which one can learn new languages easily in the way that a child does has been identified in mice.

* An inexpensive vitamin C based, IV treatment for sepsis has been discovered.

* A soft robot that wraps around a person's heart and helps it to keep beating has been developed.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) cases can be clustered into two types based upon the risk factor genes involved. This division coincides with a distinctions between severe symptoms and less severe symptoms. The two clusters appear to have distinct causes.

* The last time I did a post similar to this one (October 12, 2016), I noted progress on a universal flu vaccine, stillbirth prevention with flu vaccines for pregnant women (another virus also causes birth defects), one time vaccine-like drugs that can provide long term support to ending opioid and alcohol addictions (another treatment in mice toggles cocaine addictions on and off, also here), a drug to take upon receiving a traumatic brain injury that reduces the harm it causes, a new anti-migraine drug, a couple if alternatives to antibiotics for antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria infections, a link between toxoplasma gondii infections and aggression (also here) that may make treatment of the common and usually asymptomatic condition worth considering, a cancer drug that delays Alzheimer's onset, a drug that helps treat a kind of heart disease, a simply surgery that is effective against some kinds of high blood pressure, a potential new broad spectrum autoimmune disease treatment, two new M.S. treatments, and a much more effective form of radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

* ADHD meds make a big difference in health outcomes for children diagnosed with ADHD.

* More cancer death reduction. More progress in treating leukemia, and understanding of human aging.

* Parkinson's disease treatments that work in mice.

* Non-invasive Down's syndrome screening is effective and this causes 8% of congenital defects.

* HPV vaccination doesn't lead to promiscuity,  but does prevent cancer and genital warts (one of the few STIs that condoms are not effective at preventing). The vaccine can even help after infection

* A possible new class of painkiller has been identified.

* Our understanding of the biochemistry of allergies is improving. A two to three dose drug could cure dust mite allergies (from which I suffer).

* Gut bacteria transplants can treat obesity. Worm therapy for IBD.

* A possible prion disease drug has been identified.

* A type I diabetes treatment other than insulin works in mice. Another diabetes treatment that works well in mice.

* More malaria drugs. Also here.

* A drug to prevent harm associated with shock from trauma.

* A Hep E vaccine.

* Ketamine is a fast acting anti-depressant in the right doses.

* It may be possible to vaccinate against tooth decay.


The bottom line is that medical science is continuing to make significant progress in addressing and understanding some of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in our society.

We could make huge strides simply by having treatments proven effective in mice made to work in humans.

Progress for M.S., cancer, sepsis, the flu, and STDs, in particular all seem to be particularly great.

It isn't unrealistic to think that my grandchildren or great-grandchildren (if I am so lucky), will live in a world where many of the leading medical issues of my life will go the way of measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, TB, the black plague, and so on, relegated to the past and to communities of people that reject modern medicine. Even those that remain serious threats may become much more effectively treatable.

Similar past predictions here and here and here.

29 January 2020


Helicopters are the motorcycles of air travel. Not so dangerous that they need to be banned, but intrinsically much more dangerous than the alternatives.

Or, maybe not. Partially it depends upon what you are measuring (e.g., per hour in the air or per passenger mile traveled), and partially you need to control for the fact that helicopters are usually piloted by my experienced and well trained pilots on average, than general aviation fixed wing aircraft. Helicopter accident rates are rising however.

From here.

24 January 2020

Mammograms Are Not Very Effective

The false positive rate for mammograms over a ten year period (61.3%) is very high relative to the number of cancer deaths prevented (0.1%) by having them as recommended for ten years.

Could the value of the cost and distress associated with this routine diagnostic procedure be redirected towards something that would save more lives? 

From here.

A new, less invasive and more effective breast cancer detection technology called thermography has been invented, but doesn't yet have widespread use.

Traditional PAP smears are also much less accurate and effective than more modern HPV tests.

20 January 2020

Diplomats v Military Musicians

In 2016, Politico reported that the total number of trombone, trumpet, keyboard and other instrument players [in the U.S. military] stands at about 6,500. 
That’s a lot of Souza marches, but the State Department fields a bigger squad of diplomats. There are 8,106 Foreign Service officers, according to a State Department report. (The State Department has about another 5,700 people to support the diplomats, but they don’t do direct diplomatic work.) Still, there are a good 1,600 more diplomats than musicians.

From here.

For what it is worth, my (late) father was in a military band when he served in the 1950s.

A Second Best System To Secure Justice

Any tribunal that needs to buy new furniture to conduct a trial is probably not the optimal one in terms of impartiality, predictability, and accurate and just results.
“Dust Off the Impeachment Tables, a Senate Trial Is Underway; To make way for a historic impeachment trial, the Senate is undergoing a physical makeover, with custom tables for the prosecutors, cubbies for senators’ phones and quarters for the chief justice”: Michael D. Shear has this article in today’s edition of The New York Times.

Most importantly, of course, is that the procedures up for grabs at the same time that the merits are being contested, with few strong or binding precedents.

MLK Jr. Day 2020

A very brief reflection.

Our nation is much less far along in ending racism in 2020 than we were in 2016. Some of this is existing racism coming out of the woodwork. Lots of it is due to encouragement from President Trump who has pretty much fully transformed the Republican Party into a white nationalist party.

It is a tragedy that will take another generation, at least, to undo.

If Trump is re-elected this November, it will get much worse.

17 January 2020

The Limits Of Naive Eugenics

A Cluster Of Specific Practices Associated With Islam

When Westerners think about the Islamic world, a number of distinctive cultural practices come immediately to mind:

* Polygamy
* Limitations on the interactions of women with men who aren't family members
* A high frequency of cousin marriage
* Heavy use of corporal and capital punishment

For what it is worth, all of these cultural practices have deep pre-Islamic roots, and are not universal among peoples and societies where Islam is practiced. Islam can be seen more as a moderate reform of these practices in societies that had them (for instance, imposing limits on polygamy and some procedural limitations on arbitrary clan justice) and as a vector for their wider transmission of these practices to societies that did not (often with more limited impact), rather than the ultimate source of these practices.

All of these can be seen as motivated naively by eugenic considerations.

Eugenic Motivations For Polygamy

Polygamy tilts sexual selection in favor of men who have been unusually successful in their society, and pushes men who were unusually unsuccessful in their society out of the gene pool. Animal breeding using this approach heavily with great success to maximize desired traits. Like polygamists everywhere, wife's of polygamous men also tend to have many children per women which is also well established in animal breeding as a successful technique.

Eugenic Motivations For Isolating Women From Non-Family Men

Limitations on the interactions of women with men who aren't family members is a way to prevent infidelity from diluting polygamy and assortive marriage, which men who are excluded from having wives, and polygamous wives who receive less attention from their husbands, may have a more intense inclination to try to engage in than in a more Western style marriage system.

Eugenic Motivations For Cousin Marriage, Their Flaws, And Why The People Who Devised It Didn't Realize This Point

Cousin marriage is one form of assortive marriage that is intended to keep what are believed to be more fit in group genes from being commingled with less fit out group genes that has been widely practice in every place with a hereditary monarchy and aristocracy at those elite levels. Awareness of the risks of inbreeding depression and of the social risks of nepotism and clannishness that this system gives rise to were not really well understood until the 20th century and old habits die hard.

Why didn't experience from animal breeding lead to an awareness of this risk?

Part of the issue is that inbreeding depression doesn't badly affect all children of inbreeding parents. Mostly, inbreeding greatly increases the likelihood that undesirable recessive traits which everyone has in their genome will become dominant in the children. But, lots of children of parents who are cousins are just fine, especially if they are not "double cousins", a concern that no marriage system I am aware of had the foresight to treat differently than ordinary first cousins, but arises naturally in a society with lots of cousin marriage.

Also, while cousin marriage, where it has been practiced, has mostly been perceived as assortive, when the underlying basis upon which assortive marriage is taking place is not itself merit based as opposed to hereditary or even economic, it impedes the capacity of the in group that one seeks to enhance to be enriched with fit people from outside the in group. And, the longer this endures, the more rot degrades the quality of the in group and exclusion improves the quality of the out groups who are not losing their best children to the in group.

In pre-modern agricultural animal breeding, only the males with the traits that breeders deem most desirable breed at all, and females with undesirable traits are also ruthlessly put down rather than bred, without much concern for inbreeding issues per se. So, animal breeders, who are the experts on sexual selection in pre-modern agricultural societies, don't encounter much inbreeding depression.

But, in human societies, where even the most polygamous society has a profoundly higher proportion of breeding males and only the most severe recessive traits or inbreeding depression effects are sufficient to keep someone out of the gene pool, inbreeding is a much more serious issue.

Eugenic Motivations For Capital Punishment

Corporal and capital punishments used heavily (as most pre-modern societies did before they could afford prolonged imprisonment of serious criminals) should keep any genetic tendencies that predispose people to criminal conduct out of the gene pool.

Islamic Societies Are Not A Eugenic Success Story.

Now, in practice, Islamic societies in which all four of these practices are present are not what a naive eugenically minded individual would expect or would have sought from many dozens of generations of applying these polices.

Men in these societies are not measurably less predisposed to engage in criminal activities. The members of these societies are not academic standouts relative to societies that do not adhere to these practices, nor are they standouts with respect to other traits with a significant hereditary component, like conscientiousness or extraversion that are associated with socio-economic success.

How Can We Determine Specific Reasons Why?

The thought experiment and tricky empirical question is to try to tease out what effects these practices have had independently, because inbreeding depression effects may have been so strong that they mask beneficial implications of the other practices that are actually mitigating the downsides of cousin marriage.

For example, both England and the Islamic world have a history of heavy capital punishment use. Is there any evidence that this had a positive long run effect? In part, this is a function of the extent to which genetic predisposition to serious crime is a strong cause of crime. If it is, one would naively expect widespread capital punishment use, if not too inaccurate, to have a positive eugenic effect. But, if non-hereditary factors predominant, capital punishment shouldn't have much of an impact.

In the test case of Mormons, who briefly had high rates of polygamy, but little inbreeding, the social historical and economic historical literature suggests that children of polygamous families had poor outcomes relative to the smaller families of monogamous families, because fewer resources (both in terms of economic resources and less tangible resources like paternal attention) were available per child in polygamous families, and these deficits may have outweighed any eugenic advantage that polygamy could have conferred.

The Case For Humility In Policy Making

This post doesn't seek to provide final answers to the questions these thought experiments ask. Instead, it merely serves as a cautionary reminder that a eugenic proposal, even one that is well meant and seems sound with available knowledge that has solid empirical and theoretical foundations, can fail badly if the analysis overlooks something important in even on of many components of the plan. Hence, policy makers in this arena should show humility.

15 January 2020

Who Has Been Affected By The Retail Apocalypse?

Brick and mortar retail jobs in the U.S. collapsed in the late twenty-teens. Whose employment was affected?

It is tricky to figure out because ex-retail workers don't have excessive rates of unemployment.

According to Wonkblog at the Washington Post, the main casualties were people who would otherwise have entered the workforce for the first time in retail and as a result did not.

Fortunately, since other industries like Uber driving and food service were growing at the same time that retail has been collapsing, this has mostly meant that young people entering the work force for the first time end up on a different career path rather than resulting in serious youth unemployment.

13 January 2020

Musings On "Fruits Basket"

"Fruits Basket" is one of the most charming Japanese manga series ever written, was made into a very well done anime series in 2001 and another in 2019 which is available in an English dubbed version on Hulu. I've read the manga and watched the 2001 series and I'm now watching the 2019 series, which is considerably longer, omitting less from the original magna series.

Our heroine, Tohru Honda is a classic sweet and pure ingénue, and, of course, also an orphan, like a disproportionate share of young protagonists in fiction.

What really distinguishes the series is the very counterintuitive (to American eyes) way that Tohru and those around her deal with the interpersonal issues within the Soma family in which Tohru becomes ensconced, some of which are counterintuitive to anyone, and others of which reflect distinctly Japanese values rooted to some extent in Confucianism, about the appropriate ways for people of unequal status to interact with each other.

Even deeper than that, however, is the very sophisticated level of psychological analysis rooted in very deep empathy (rather than explicit social science  theories) employed by Tohru and several of the more mature characters in dealing with these interpersonal conflicts. This is more obvious in  the longer retelling of the story in the 2019 version makes it possible to focus on the meaty interpersonal relationship analysis in the underlying material relative to the 2001 version. It seems even stronger in the 2019 anime, to some extent, relative to the manga itself which is a bit more subtle on some of these points (although perhaps I just wasn't as attuned to them when reading it as one of the early full manga series that I read). Some of this may come with the passage of time too. The 2019 anime, for example, has a somewhat less tone deaf recounting of the travails of a transgender member of the family, although, as it is bound by the original material, not one that fully fits today's sensibilities about how to talk about and deal with transgender individuals respectfully.

The depth of understanding, empathy and sensitivity on display in the series itself has an internal irony to it. Despite the very sophisticated understanding of others that some in the Soma clan hold, the clan as a whole does a horrible job of recognizing the importance of love or the feelings of its members and is full of interpersonal misery. In part, this is a consequence of apparently unenlightened leadership of the mysterious Akito Soma at the top that everyone is powerless to address, a classic problem in any Confucian hierarchy. In part, this is a consequence of an epic, multigenerational curse that it is hubris to think that anyone can actually really overcome.

This in turn is rooted in a moral axiom and ideal rooted very deeply in modern Japanese culture that is absent in Western culture to anything approaching the same degree. This axiom is that everyone, no matter how deplorable their conduct, is capable of being persuaded and won over to acting more appropriately is you can only get to understand them and what is making them act the way that they do much completely.

As an empirical proposition, I have my doubts that this moral ideal accurately describes the world. It bears a lot of similarity to the almost ubiquitous tendency to overestimate the relevance of Nurture, relative to Nature, in understanding people's propensities and abilities. 

The reality is that behavior arises from complex Nature x Nurture interactions, and also depends a lot on immediate social context. But, the reality is also that some uncommon but not terribly rare people, perhaps one to four percent of the overall population, are just irredeemable, for example, due to a congenital condition that deprives them of the ability to have empathy, or due to a traumatic brain injury, or due to a life time of bad experiences that it are impossible to undo at some point.

Still, it is also true that there is something very positive to be said for routinely putting more effort than is common into trying to see things from someone else's perspective in an effort to understand why they are acting the way that the do. There is value in recognizing that behavior often does have roots that are understandable when known, that may not be immediately obvious without further intense investigation. And, it is likewise true that a myopic view of social interactions that looks just at an isolated incident of interaction in isolation (as most Western rules of law do) can obscure more fruitful ways to prevent bad behavior from continuing that approaches roots in imposing brute consequences often long deferred from the misconduct in question as a response to anti-social or inappropriate interactions and behavior. 

The snotty, spoiled and immature, but smart young family member Hiro Soma, routinely abuses his authority and tries to manipulate situations and rules to his favor. He exemplifies and demonstrates the perceived flaws in Eastern legal and political thinking of a narrow Western style system of "rule of law" that can be manipulated in so many ways and ignores the pervasive inequalities found in so many socially and legally important interactions. These are flaws relative to an Eastern legal and political philosophy oriented system focused on putting in place moral and wise people to administer society at every level and clear understandings about the appropriate ways to act interpersonally towards others who are in unequal relationships with each other, in which the focus is on nurturing well socialized people for leadership positions in which their own innate morality rather than formal rules of law are the primary guiding force in their actions. In Western legal and political thinking, the natural response to something that isn't working well is to adopt better laws and policies. In Eastern legal and political thinking, the natural response to something that isn't working well is to put in place more virtuous leaders.

It isn't wrong to observe that the Western narrow incident oriented approach does have flaws. Punishing someone for hitting, even when they do so only after extreme and inappropriate anti-social provocation, doesn't do complete justice or solve the problem entirely. Treating a girl who kills a man that has been keeping her as a sex slave and repeatedly raping her when she gets a chance because legally authorized self-defense in the moment is futile, isn't culpable to the same extent as a pre-meditated killing of a weak stranger. Many bullies start out as victims of other bullies until a vicious cycle builds up that treating each incident in isolation as an act to be punished with stiff consequences can't break. 

Sometimes someone gives someone else the cold shoulder out of misplaced love, trying to protect the person that they love from the woes that the person giving the cold shoulder is afflicted with, rather than hate or actual disdain.

Looking at acts narrowly and imposing consequences in isolation may be better than anarchy and easier for marginally competent people charged with enforcing peace and order to carry out without making serious mistakes. But, this is also crude and misses many opportunities in which more enlightened, empathetic and wise actions by those in authority and those involved without authority could have treated a situation differently and secured a better result. 

It brings to mind the truth that teachers and school administrators (who are better educated and who are specifically trained to deal with the issues of developing children) often do a better job of balancing consequences with empathy and understanding to get good results in dealing with discipline issues of students in school, than "school resource" officers who think crudely like the cops that they are and systemically lead to a school to prison pipeline.

12 January 2020

Other Humanities Disciplines Following In The Steps Of Classics

The Decline of Classics

For centuries, the sole admission requirement to Yale and Harvard was fluency in Latin and ancient Greek. Latin was a required course in the vast majority of high schools until after the 1950s. 

In addition to the sense that this was obsolete in the modern job market, the decision of the Roman Catholic Church to conduct its church services in vernacular languages rather than Latin, for the most part, also greatly decreased demand for the subject.

Now, college bound high school students are required to study English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies, as well as a foreign language and some sort of creative or performing art subject, with very few of those students using Latin or ancient Greek as their foreign language (Spanish, French and German are predominant). 

My daughter's freshman year roommate in college stated she intended to major in "classics", thinking it meant classic English language books, TV and music, instead of classical Greek and Latin language and literature. 

Latin is a rare sight indeed for high school students outside of some magnet schools in Boston, and many colleges and universities don't offer it at all. According to Wikipedia:
In the United States, Latin is occasionally taught in high schools and middle schools, usually as an elective or option. Latin is often taught in Catholic secondary schools, and in some of them it is a required course. More than 149,000 Latin students took the 2007 National Latin Exam. 
By comparison, there are about 3.7 million high school graduates in the United States per year, and more students who enter high school as freshman each fall who won't ultimately graduate from high school.

About 6,400 out of the about 4 million AP exams (about one in 625 AP exams) that are taken each year (often more than one per student), are in AP Latin, and about 63% of those who take the exam receive a passing score of 3 on a 5 point scale or better.

According to the College Board, right now:
Approximately forty universities, colleges, and religious seminaries in the United States offer [a major in Classics].
By comparison, there are about 3,000 universities, colleges and religious seminaries offering a four year degree in the United States. Roughly one in 75 universities, colleges and religious seminaries offers a classics major.

Most people studying Latin or ancient Greek in college are doing so to prepare for theology studies and classical music vocalists, and those too are in decline. For most of academic history, the primary purpose of higher education was to prepare clergy.

It has always been the case that far fewer native speakers of the English language have studied ancient Greek than Latin, as ancient Greek did not survive as a liturgical language, only as a dead language for historical interest and for translation of ancient Biblical texts.

The Decline Of The Humanities

As a new set of essays from the Chronicle of Higher Education explains:
The number of jobs in English advertised on the annual MLA job list has declined by 55 percent since 2008; adjuncts now account for all but a quarter of college instructors generally. Whole departments are being extirpated by administrators with utilitarian visions; from 2013 to 2016, colleges cut 651 foreign-language programs. Meanwhile the number of English majors at most universities continues to swoon.
In a recent year, Columbia University's English Department couldn't place a single one of its newly minted PhDs in a tenure track position teaching English.

The plight of newly minted PhDs seeking English Department faculty employment is also plagued by the fact that a cohort of faculty already hired has been slower to retire than their predecessors (in part due to factors like increased life expectancy among people with good health insurance and stable incomes), even as the demand for English professors has fallen dramatically.

From 1991 to 2012, humanities bachelor’s degrees enjoyed a period of relative stability, according to the report, which drew on data from the National Center for Education Statistics. During that time, the number of bachelor's degrees in English averaged about 52,684 per year. But the number of degrees awarded in English has fallen each year since 2012, to the lowest point since 1989: some 42,868 degrees in 2016, the most recent year for which data were available. . . . other humanities fields have suffered the same downward trend.
From Inside Higher Ed

A Personal Note

It was worth observing that this is a series of event that I have watched up close to some extent. 

My wife was an English major, a degree that she earned in 1993, the peak year of popularity for the major. Then, after earning a Master's degree in American Studies (in connection with which she was a teaching assistant for Women's Studies courses), she was an adjunct in the English Department at Mesa State College (now called Colorado Mesa University) for about a year, teaching English composition, after which she worked in the admissions department there for a couple of years.

06 January 2020

In England and Wales, Barristers Aren't Rain Makers

The English legal profession is divided between barristers, who are elite trial lawyers who office share but are all sole practitioners and try cases prepped for them by solicitors to a great extent, and solicitors who do pretty much everything else that lawyers in the U.S. do.  As the Wikipedia link above explains:
Solicitors tend to work together with others in private practice and are generally the first port of call for those seeking legal advice. Solicitors are also employed in government departments and commercial businesses. The Law Society is the professional body representing solicitors.

Barristers, on the other hand, do not generally deal with the public directly, but take their instructions from a solicitor representing the client. Barristers then represent the client at court and present their case. The Bar Council is the professional body representing barristers. . . .

The main actions of barristers involve going to court, especially to the higher courts. They make speeches in front of the court, they write briefs, they give legal advice, and they provide expert opinion for difficult cases. Usually they use briefs of professional clients, solicitors, and accountants. The barristers analyze the briefs and bring the results to the court. . . . [T]here are approximately 10,000 barristers in England and Wales. Most of them have their offices in London. Their elite still form the Queen's Counsels, of which many of the judges for higher courts are chosen. . . .

A solicitor stays in direct contact to his clients and gives them personally legal advice. A solicitor prepares the lawsuit for his clients and represents his parties personally in the lower courts (magistrates' courts, county courts and tribunal). In cases on higher courts (High Court or higher) where a barrister is necessary, a solicitor acts as an agent. Moreover, solicitor's practice is comparable to notary public. Dealing with conveyancing as well as trust businesses, developing last wills, and administrating estates are parts of solicitors' practice. Furthermore he oversee contract conclusion and consulting in various fields of law like tax, competition, insurance and company law. Profitable real estate businesses makes over 50% of his income. . . . [T]here are approximately 100,000 solicitors in England and Wales. 25% of it stay in employer-employee relationship at companies, bigger solicitor offices or administrations. 75% of it works as self-employed.
Barristers don't look for their own work. They have a profession called "clerks", a well paid profession unrelated to American law clerks, that makes rain for them, mostly from solicitors seeking seeking litigation counsel for the clients that they develop more conventionally. 

The story also captures very well the way that key aspects of the economy are driven more by traditional and culture than sterile theories of economics, which provide boundaries on what can be viable, but miss so much that a more descriptive approach to economics can reveal. 
Clerks have co-existed with chimney sweeps and gene splicers. It’s a trade that one can enter as a teenager, with no formal qualifications, and that’s astonishingly well-paid. A senior clerk can earn a half-million pounds per year, or more than $650,000, and some who are especially entrenched make far more. 
Clerks—pronounced “clarks”—have no equivalent in the U.S. legal system, and have nothing in common with the Ivy League–trained Supreme Court aides of the same spelling. They exist because in England and Wales, to simplify a bit, the role of lawyer is divided in two: There are solicitors, who provide legal advice from their offices, and there are barristers, who argue in court. Barristers get the majority of their business via solicitors, and clerks act as the crucial middlemen between the tribes—they work for and sell the services of their barristers, steering inquiring solicitors to the right man or woman. 
Clerks are by their own cheerful admission “wheeler-dealers,” what Americans might call hustlers. They take a certain pride in managing the careers of their bosses, the barristers—a breed that often combines academic brilliance with emotional fragility. Many barristers regard clerks as their pimps. Some, particularly at the junior end of the profession, live in terror of clerks. The power dynamic is baroque and deeply English, with a naked class divide seen in few other places on the planet. Barristers employ clerks, but a bad relationship can strangle their supply of cases. In his 1861 novel Orley Farm, Anthony Trollope described a barrister’s clerk as a man who “looked down from a considerable altitude on some men who from their professional rank might have been considered as his superiors.” 
Fountain Court is among the most prestigious groups in London practicing commercial law, the branch that deals with business disputes. . . . the barristers had tried to walk an aesthetic line between modernity and the heritage that clients expect of people who are sometimes still required to wear a horsehair wig to court. Barristers are self-employed; chambers are a traditional way for them to band together to share expenses, though not profits. The highest-ranking members, barristers who’ve achieved the rank of Queen’s Counsel, are nicknamed silks, after the plush material used to make their robes. But even the silks cannot practice without the services of clerks, who operate from a designated room in each chambers, matching the ability and availability of barristers to solicitors in need. . . . 
Clerking has historically been a dynastic profession monopolized by white working-class families from the East End of London; Taylor’s son is a clerk. Predominantly, clerks hail from Hertfordshire, Kent, and above all Essex, a county that’s ubiquitously compared to New Jersey in the U.S. . . . 
London’s barrister population is getting more diverse, but it’s still disproportionately made up of men who attended the best private secondary schools, and then Oxford and Cambridge, before joining one of four legal associations, known as Inns of Court—a cosseted progression known as moving “quad to quad to quad.” In short, barristers tend to be posh. Being a successful clerk, therefore, allows working-class men and, increasingly, women to exert power over their social superiors. It’s an enduring example of a classic British phenomenon: professional interaction across a chasmic class divide. 
One of the most peculiar aspects of the clerk-barrister relationship is that clerks handle money negotiations with clients. Barristers argue that avoiding fee discussions keeps their own interactions with clients clean and uncomplicated, but as a consequence, they’re sometimes unaware of how much they actually charge. The practice also insulates and coddles them. Clerks become enablers of all sorts of curious, and in some cases self-destructive, behavior. . . . 
A more unsavory side of this coddling relationship is apparent elsewhere. At a chambers called 4 Stone Buildings, a clerk called Chris O’Brien, 28, told me he was once asked to dress a boil on a barrister’s back. Among clerks, tales of buying gifts for their barristers’ mistresses are legion. But they maintain a level of sympathy for their employers, whose work is competitive and often profoundly isolating. Clerks speak of how their masters, no matter how successful, live in perpetual fear that their current case will be their last. . . .
Junior clerks, traditionally recruited straight after leaving school at 16 and potentially with no formal academic qualifications, start at £15,000 to £22,000 ($19,500 to $28,600); after 10 years they can make £85,000. Pay for senior clerks ranges from £120,000 to £500,000, and a distinct subset can earn £750,000. The Institute of Barristers’ Clerks disputed these figures, saying the lows were too low and the highs too high. . . .
Money is tightest in criminal law. One chambers, 3 Temple Gardens, lies 200 yards from Fountain Court but might as well inhabit a different dimension. Access is via a plunging staircase lined with green tiles similar to those in a Victorian prison. The clerks room, in the basement, is stacked with battered files detailing promising murders, rapes, and frauds. . . . Even the barristers appear harried and ashen in comparison with their better-fed commercial-law counterparts. 
The mean income of a criminal barrister working with legal-aid clients is £90,000, meaning even a successful criminal barrister likely makes less than a top commercial clerk. At Fountain Court, once described as a place so prestigious that “you could get silk just by sitting on the toilet,” I watched Taylor casually negotiate a fee above £20,000; at 3 Temple Gardens, the clerks wrangled deals for a few hundred pounds. The best-paid criminal clerks make perhaps £250,000 per year—and yet there’s an excitement and pressure to a criminal clerks room that’s absent in the commercial field. 
Some barristers only work as defense counsel, some only prosecute, and some alternate roles, depending on the case . . . Many in the criminal field are motivated by a belief that they’re a crucial part of the British judicial machinery, and their work closely corresponds with the public’s imagination of what it is to work in the law. . . . 
As a chancery chambers, dealing with wills, trusts, banking, and other matters, 4 Stone Buildings is an establishment from the old school, with a facade still pockmarked by World War I bombs. Guests stride down a corridor with deep red wallpaper to a waiting room equipped with a fireplace and shelved with aged lawbooks. The best of the silks’ rooms face out across a low dry moat to the gardens of Lincoln’s Inn—one of the four Inns of Court, along with Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple, all less than a mile apart. There are 34 barristers at 4 Stone[.] . . . 
One vital function clerks play is finessing a “cab rank” rule, set by the Bar Standards Board, that states a barrister must take the first case that comes, regardless of their interest. Clerks can invent or manipulate commitments to allow their barristers to turn down work that doesn’t appeal.  
From here

The 100 Largest U.S. Churches

Everybody loves lists. The Christian magazine "Outreach" lists the 100 largest churches in the U.S. whose attendance ranges from 4,328 to 40,445. Three Colorado churches make the list (shown with attendance):

* Flatirons Community Church, Lafayette, CO 16,702 
* Red Rocks Church, Littleton, CO 13,334
* Cherry Hills Community Church, Highlands Ranch, CO 4,707

The denominations represented are:

* Assemblies of God (5)
* Baptist (10)
* Baptist - Converge Worldwide (3) 
* Baptist - Southern Baptist (18)
* Brethren - Grace Brethren (1) (Grace Church, Akron, OH 5,874)
* Christian - Independent Christian Churches (17)
* Evangelical Covenant (1) (Bayside Church, Roseville, CA 22,286)
* Evangelical Free (2) (both CA)
* Lutheran - Evangelical (1) (the Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, IA 13,110).
* Nondenominational (40)
* Presbyterian - Evangelical (2) (Hope Church, Cordova, TN 6,815 and Cherry Hills Community Church, Highlands Ranch, CO 4,707)
* Vineyard (1) (Vineyard Columbus, Columbus, OH 7,050).

A less fine division would be:

* Pentecostal - 5
* Baptist - 31
* Non-Denominational - 57
* Evangelical Covenant - 1 (CA)
* Evangelical Free - 2 (CA)
* Lutheran - Evangelical 1 (IA)
* Presbyterian - Evangelical - 2 (TN and CO)
* Vineyard - 1 (OH)

Most are non-denominational, and only a very few a liturgical. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is actually a liturgical, non-Evangelical denomination. Presbyterian - Evangelical is liturgical, but also Evangelical rather than mainline Protestant.

02 January 2020

The Top Twelve Posts Of 2019

The most viewed posts in 2019 at this blog, in reverse order, from least viewed to most viewed, were:

8. Vindication! 1/14/19

7. Brain Mush 1/15/19

How Will The 2020 Census Shift The Balance Of Power?

Based upon census population estimates as of July 1, 2019, Congressional seats will shift as follows following the 2020 census:

Texas +2
Arizona +1
Colorado +1
Florida +1
Montana +1
North Carolina +1
Oregon +1
California -1
Illinois -1
Michigan -1
Minnesota -1
New York -1
Pennsylvania -1
Rhode Island -1
West Virginia -1

Mostly, this is a shift to the political right.

My New Year's Resolutions For 2020

1. Floss almost every day.

2. Work out at recreation center three times a week.

3. Find a diet that works that I can stick to.

4. Spend more time with wife.

5. Help Democratic Presidential and U.S. Senate Campaigns in general election.

6. Continue to be open to new things.

7. Complete 10,000 combined blog posts since 7/5/05 by 7/4/20.

8. Read at least 12 books in 2020.

9. Downside my storage unit.

10. Do more work well in advance of deadlines.

11. Make a realistic, data based budget.

12. Develop a better bookkeeping system for personal and office finances.