Kenneth W. Phifer: The Faith of a Humanist

When I left Mormonism for the Unitarian Universalism in 2000, Ken Phifer was the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He gave beautiful sermons. I am grateful for his permission to reprint one of them here. (You will find links to some of my own UU sermons here.)

Below are Ken’s words.


I am a humanist.

l agree with Protagoras that "the human is the measure of all things" and with Sophocles that of all the many wonders of the world there is "none so wonderful as the human."

I see with Shakespeare what a piece of work is the human being:

How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world' the paragon of animals!

l am one with the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 in its assertion that the purpose and practice of humanism is to

(a) affirm life rather than deny it;

(b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from it;

(c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely the few.

I believe, in the words of the Secular Humanist Declaration, that "human beings are responsible for their own destinies."

I rejoice in the humanism of a George Santayana, who once described a humanist as a "person saturated by the humanities" and humanism as "an accomplishment, not a doctrine."

I hold with the conviction of humanism that the scientific method is the best means we have discovered for advancing truth.

I have faith in that part of humanism which sees the human being as the highest form of life, an end not a means, the creator of moral values, the maker of history.

The humanism I embrace is materialistic.

Materialistic humanism asserts that matter comes before spirit, that soul is part of body, that the stuff of which this world is composed is the necessary context for the ideas and ideals that enrich human life.

Spirit enlivens matter, but where there is no matter there can be no spirit. In every infant we stand before the mystery of this process. From the combining of egg and sperm to zygote to fetus to baby and then through child-hood into maturity, a human being begins as simple matter and proceeds to develop personality, uniqueness, a spiritual dimension.

Until the male matter and the female matter come together there is nothing, no thing. When they do, a process of growth unfolds that leads to ... a Mother Theresa or an Albert Einstein, or a you or me.

The humanism I embrace is naturalistic.

The natural world is the only world there is. The universe is indeed "one song," not a melody in two parts. Human beings, as well as bears and bees, waves and winds, steroids and stars, proceed from, are always a part of, and return unto nature, our truest home.

Nature is unified, its parts connected, its laws regular, its mechanisms open to human understanding. At the infinite extensions of the macroscopic and the microscopic we find a harmony of nature, not two kinds of reality. The rules by which gravity functions or relativity operates or elements combine are true everywhere in the universe and do not contradict one another.

Nature is a miracle—in its magnificent story of a Big Bang which launched the universe, in the tale of the origins of life on this planet in the sludge and slime of primeval waters, in the saga of the evolution of the human race from living in the treetops to flying machines above them. The true meaning of "super nature" is not as a term for another whole realm of reality but as a description of the one reality that exists.

The humanism I embrace is religious.

Religion is a human enterprise. It is the human race that has created religions out of that unique self-awareness that drives us to ask questions about our origins and our destiny. It is the human race that has invented' religious communities in order to share the burden of our aloneness as individuals: It is the human race that is concerned with ethical values. We want to know what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, what is helpful and what is harmful. We desire to increase the measure of the good and the true and the beautiful in the lives of all people.

Albert Schweitzer, in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, remarked that "humanism in all its implicity is the only genuine spirituality." He spoke not of a humanism that worships humanity but a humanism that seeks, without creedal test or ritual requirement, to treasure each human being as a center of meaning and value. The adventure of religion is not in the discovery of Eternal Truth or Absolute Meaning— arenas in which human beings do not and cannot deal—but in our individual and communal search for and creation of meanings and values that dignify and enhance life.

The humanism I embrace is rational.

Beginning with Protagoras and Socrates, continuing through Lucretius and Epictetus, Erasmus and Bacon, into our own time with Dewey and Einstein, the life of the mind has been respected by the humanist. As Lester Mondale phrased it, "scholarship coupled with education has remained to a greater or lesser degree the perennial mark of the humanist." In the complex age in which we live nothing could be of more importance.

Humanism recognizes the importance of the non-rational aspects of human life. Passion and enthusiasm, joy and love are integral to our living. But only as these are guided by

reason even as reason is tempered by them can we avoid the dangers of mere prejudice and irrationality. It takes more than good will or good luck to build a good society.

I an, a humanist because humanism does not rely on tradition, a special book or person, "what I'm feeling right now," or the most recent revelation of the latest deity. It relies on reason, thought, the human mind as the best means we have of discovering truth and promoting justice.

The humanism I embrace is responsible.

Humanity has conceived countless numbers and kinds of divine forces, imagined innumerable and picturesque heavens and hells, devised all manner of schemes whereby gods intervene on behalf of men and women who call on them in the proper way. How many messiahs there have been to usher in paradise!

Yet the world goes on. The face of the planet is scarred with pain and sorrow. That is part of the tale of human and natural history. I see no evidence of a deity at work trying to ease that suffering. I look at the Holocaust and I see one and one half million children who were deliberately murdered by the Nazis and I say that if there is a god anywhere surely that god would have stopped that terrible carnage.

Humanism teaches us that it is immoral to wait for God to act for us. We must act to stop the wars and the crimes and the brutality of this and future ages. We have powers of a remarkable kind. We have a high degree of freedom in choosing what we will do. Humanism tells us that whatever our philosophy of the universe may be, ultimately the responsibility for the kind of world in which we live rests with us.

Humanism points to the deeds of those women and men who have chosen the good. Humanism lifts up the courageous work of a Margaret Sanger or a Betty Friedan, the significant contributions of a Marie Curie or a Jonas Salk, the persistent efforts of a Maggie Kuhn or a Linus Pauling, and says to each of us, you see what can be done. Go and do what you can. If each of us really did the best we could do, it would be a very different and a much better world than it is. I believe that that is what humanism urges on us to stop looking for help from out there and get busy with the task at hand.

The humanism I embrace is inclusive.

It is the only perspective because I am a human being. I cannot see things as an ant or an angel might, much less as a god, but solely from the vantage point of a human person. So many people so easily forget this limitation and speak glibly as though they really did know what the view from the godhead is. Such a splendid picture has not been vouchsafed to me nor do I believe it has been granted to anyone else. We all see reality from the humanist perspective.

Humanism is also the broadest possible perspective for us in the sense that any other definition of our position limits us and excludes others. A humanist approach is the broadest possible term of inclusion I know. Language and understanding that is universal and planet-wide and that embraces, not erases, all cultures and religious expressions, all

races and sexes and every other kind of difference is essential for human survival and prosperity.

How impressive it is to read the sermons of humanist preachers like John Dietrich and see that "man and woman" is the phrase used where others in the early years of this century—and many still today!—were using "man." How refreshing to read humanists of the Unitarian and Universalist and other religions of a hundred years ago and see the respect with which they were treating all the varied world religions, while Christian writers were describing them as stages on the way to Christianity.

The day may come when we can adopt an even wider identification. For now the struggle is to understand and appreciate how very much alike we are in our anxieties and our hopes. We need to find ways of celebrating those qualities that make each of us individually and the varied groups of which we are a part unique and valuable without harming others as we do so. Humanism is the best perspective from which to view and to work on this task.

Ultimately, of course, the name does not matter. Some will choose to call themselves theists or atheists, fideists or deists, or maybe just "ists." What matters is that we join with each other in seeking to do justice and to love mercy, walking humbly with one another in full respect of the preciousness and worth of every human life.

That is the faith of a humanist.
That is the faith by which I try to live my life.

William Strauss and Neil Howe's American Prophecy in 'The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny'

Ever since I read it, one of the books I find myself thinking about most often when I think about current events is The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. We often talk about the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and now Gen Z. Thinking of different generations as having different attitudes owes a lot to Neil Howe and William Strauss’s book “Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069.” (On Wikipedia, Neil Howe is described as an “author, historian and consultant” while William Strauss is described as an “author, historian, playwright, theater director, and lecturer.”)

In their 1997 book The Fourth Turning William Strauss and Neil Howe they used their theory of generational replacement combined with different generational attitudes to predict the future. Overall, their theory is almost too good to be true. But between 1997 and today their predictions have done very well. Two passages from The Fourth Turning make the idea clear. First, here is the synopsis of their theory:

Over the past five centuries, Anglo-American society has entered a new era—a new turning—every two decades or so. At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation, and the future. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years, a unit of time the ancients called the saeculum. Together, the four turnings of the saeculum comprise history's seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction:

  • The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.

  • The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.

  • The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.

  • The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

Each turning comes with its own identifiable mood. Always, these mood shifts catch people by surprise.

In the current saeculum, the First Turning was the American High of the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy presidencies. As World War II wound down, no one predicted that America would soon become so confident and institutionally muscular, yet so conformist and spiritually complacent. But that's what happened.

The Second Turning was the Consciousness Revolution, stretching from the campus revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s. Before John Kennedy was assassinated, no one predicted that America was about to enter an era of personal liberation and cross a cultural divide that would separate anything thought or said after from anything thought or said before. But that's what happened.

The Third Turning has been the Culture Wars, an era that began with Reagan's mid-1980s Morning in America and is due to expire around the middle of the Oh-Oh decade, eight or ten years from now. Amid the glitz of the early Reagan years, no one predicted that the nation was entering an era of national drift and institutional decay. But that's where we are.

And here is the remarkable prophecy they made in 1997:

The Fourth Turning is history's great discontinuity. It ends one epoch and begins another.

History is seasonal, and winter is coming. Like nature's winter, the saecular winter can come early or late. A Fourth Turning can be long and difficult, brief but severe, or (perhaps) mild. But, like winter, it cannot be averted. It must come in its turn.

Here, in summary, is what the rhythms of modern history warn about America's future.

The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. Yet this time of trouble will bring seeds of social rebirth. Americans will share a regret about recent mistakes—and a resolute new consensus about what to do. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort—in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind's willingness to use it. In the Civil War, the two capital cities would surely have incinerated each other had the means been at hand. In World War II, America invented a new technology of annihilation, which the nation swiftly put to use. This time, America will enter a Fourth Turning with the means to inflict unimaginable horrors and, perhaps, will confront adversaries who possess the same.

Yet Americans will also enter the Fourth Turning with a unique opportunity to achieve a new greatness as a people. Many despair that values that were new in the 1960s are today so entwined with social dysfunction and cultural decay that they can no longer lead anywhere positive. Through the current Unraveling era, that is probably true. But in the crucible of Crisis, that will change. As the old civic order gives way, Americans will have to craft a new one. This will require a values consensus and, to administer it, the empowerment of a strong new political regime. If all goes well, there could be a renaissance of civic trust, and more: Today's Third Turning problems—that Rubik's Cube of crime, race, money, family, culture, and ethics —will snap into a Fourth Turning solution. America's post-Crisis answers will be as organically interconnected as today's pre-Crisis questions seem hopelessly tangled. By the 2020s, America could become a society that is good, by today's standards, and also one that works.

Thus might the next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse—or glory. The nation could be ruined, its democracy destroyed, and millions of people scattered or killed. Or America could enter a new golden age, triumphantly applying shared values to improve the human condition. The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming Crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension.

How did this prophecy do? In 2000, it looked like Bush v. Gore might precipitate a crisis. But then 9/11 unified the country. Close to William Strauss and Neil Howe’s schedule, the souring of many people on the second Iraq War after weapons of mass destruction failed to be found in Iraq began to rend the country apart. Fueled by a variety of different events, America’s political and cultural polarization have grown since then.

The following chart gives a better picture of how the workings of the Strauss-Howe generational theory play out in attitudes. Here, the most recent “High” was 1946-1964. The most recent “Awakening” was 1964-1984: the “Conciousness Revoluation.” The most recent Unraveling was 1984-2003 or so: “The Culture Wars.” Since 2003 or so, we have been in a Crisis period. (In my mind I have often called these periods “Constitutional Crises.”)

William Strauss and Neil Howe make a prediction, still to be tested, of what will happen in the next few years. They say things will come back together in America. One key to things coming back together is Baby Boomers aging out of politics. The trouble with Baby Boomers is that they are what William and Neil call “Prophets” who cut their teeth as adults on the Consciousness Revolution and everything else that happened in the 1960s and 1970s, or cut their teeth as adults on the reaction to the 1960s and 1970s. On both sides of the political spectrum, there are many Baby Boomers who have a deep conviction in their beliefs—too deep a conviction for compromise, or even toleration, of the other side. And Baby Boomers don’t have a lot of more more mature supervision any more. This diagram shows the theory:

The other key to things coming back together is Millennials starting to vote in greater numbers. This is primarily a function of age, but movements in the participation rate for voting holding age fixed can accelerate or slow down the process. One of my personal favorites among my Quartz columns is “That Baby Born in Bethlehem Should Inspire Society to Keep Redeeming Itself.” There I write:

… however hard it may seem to change misguided institutions and policies, all it takes to succeed in such an effort is to durably convince the young that there is a better way. 

In the long run, gay rights are in no danger, because the young are convinced that gay rights are necessary for basic fairness and compassion. I think the young feel the same about treating minorities well, and treating immigrants (documented or not) as human beings. Thus, I think Donald Trump’s assaults on human dignity in these areas are unlikely to stand in the America of even ten years from now, let alone further in the future.

Grimly, this simple prediction of mine—in line with the earlier and thus much more daring prediction of William Strauss and Neil Howe—is backed up by the concentration of Trump supporters in the ranks of those who are close to death’s door as a result of old age. Donald Trump may win in 2020, but in America many of the most odious ideas he stands for are unlikely to survive long beyond his second term, should things come to that.

But William Strauss and Neil Howe’s prediction of things coming back together seems unlikely if Democrats got everything they wanted and Republicans got nothing. It is hard to know how things will be resolved; part of William Strauss and Neil Howe’s prediction is based on the rising generations being more civil than those who will be aging out of politics. That mechanism doesn’t tell us with what settlement the current crisis will be resolved.

But here is one possibility for a settlement of the current crisis: beginning in 2024, there is a period in which the Democrats hold the Presidency and both houses of Congress. But the Supreme Court and many lower courts are solidly Republican at that point. With the legislative and executive power in their hands, the Democrats would be able to get the most important things they wanted, while the Republicans would be protected by the Supreme Court from the outcomes they feared most.

Part of what makes William Strauss and Neil Howe’s theory impressive is its postdictions and well as its predictions. Here is a chart of how their cyclical theory of history based on generational replacement works out in the past. The last crisis was the Great Depression and World War II. The crisis before that was the Civil War. And the crisis before that was the American Revolution. All were write on schedule. And the Great Awakenings have also been right on schedule at the opposite end of the cycle.

The bottom line, if you take this theory seriously, is that there is hope for a less riven American politics. But the reason there is hope is that some people will die, and others will grow up. It is in the same spirit as Max Planck’s dictum:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

which has been shortened in the inevitable game of “telephone” or “Chinese whispers” to “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

My Annual Anti-Cancer Fast

  By (Image: Lance Liotta Laboratory) - Cancer-Causing Genes Can Convert Even the Most Committed Cells. PLoS Biology Vol. 3/8/2005, e276 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030276, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1430234

By (Image: Lance Liotta Laboratory) - Cancer-Causing Genes Can Convert Even the Most Committed Cells. PLoS Biology Vol. 3/8/2005, e276 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030276, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1430234

I am in the middle of my annual 7-10 day fast as a cancer prevention measure. I plan to fast until the election is over, which will make it 8 days total. The logic is in my posts linked below in the section on “Anti-Cancer Eating,” especially my post “How Fasting Can Starve Cancer Cells, While Leaving Normal Cells Unharmed.”

I first heard of this recommendation of an annual fast—in which I drink water, but don’t eat—from Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code, which I feature in “Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon” and “Five Books That Have Changed My Life.” Before any of you try an extended fast yourself, let me give several cautions:

  1. Do not try to do a fast of more than 24-48 hours without first reading The Obesity Code, and possibly Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore’s The Complete Guide to Fasting

  2. Do not try an extended fast unless you are of prime age and not pregnant: that is, don’t try an extended fast if you are a child, a teenager, elderly or pregnant.

  3. If you are on any medication, you must consult with your doctor before trying an extended fast. Fasting can make the dosage of your medication wildly inappropriate. You should worry about this even with over-the-counter medication; for over-the-counter medication, lean very low on the dosage while you are fasting.

  4. You should take in some minerals/electrolytes. If not, you might get some muscle cramps. These are not that dangerous but are very unpleasant. What I do is simply take one SaltStick capsule each day.

What I can report is that this extended fast has not been that hard. I do find food a little more interesting than usual, and try not to dwell in the kitchen, but there is no physical discomfort from the fasting. I was less hungry after 3 days than after 2 days—both levels of hunger were mild. Then the level of hunger has been the same after 4, 5, and 6 days as after 3 days. The secret to keeping the level of hunger mild in the first day or two is to have been eating low on the insulin index before starting the fast. (See “Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid.”) Indeed, I try to have a meal especially low on the insulin index right before my fast. Theoretically, the further one gets into an extended fast, the less it should matter what you were eating beforehand. Eventually one should reach the same steady state either way (steady state except for the gradual decline in body fat).

I did have one person whom I mentioned my fast to ask “Couldn’t that harm your body?” The first part of the answer is that, in general, human beings who are in good health and of prime age (not children, teenagers or elderly) are well-designed for extended fasts. With the uncertainty of food sources at many points in human history, the contemporaries of our ancestors who weren’t adapted to extended fasts died, and didn’t become our ancestors. We are descended from those who managed to survive extended fasts.

The second part of the answer is that even if one concedes that fasting for 7-10 days might cause some negative physical stress, any such physical stress has to be compared to the harms of chemotherapy if one does get cancer. I know this only second-hand, but I am confident in saying that chemotherapy is a horrible experience and quite damaging to the body.

Of course, for me prevention of cancer by an annual 7-10 day fast is being done with a probability close to 1, and every year, while I would only need to do chemotherapy if I actual got cancer, which is a probability significantly below 1. And chemotherapy wouldn’t be done every year. But I have no problem saying that the ratio between the harm of chemotherapy and any plausible harm of an annual 7-10 day fast is likely to be quite large. In terms of relative effectiveness, as far as I know, no long-term studies have been done. But the theory for starving cancer cells is clear enough that that study definitely should be done. And studies to update our views on the safety of fasting can be done much more quickly and cheaply.

Although the primary motivation for this annual 7-10 day fast is cancer prevention, I have to admit that the fast-forward for weight loss is a great ancillary benefit. On that score, let me give a little perspective by saying that theoretically, fat loss should only be about 3/5 of a pound per day of fasting. But during your fast you will see a lot more than that. I am finding there are huge mass-in/mass-out effects during my extended fast. (See “Mass In/Mass Out: A Satire of Calories In/Calories Out.”) I don’t quite understand why the numbers on the scale are as low as they are right now, but I expect anything beyond 3/5 of a pound per day to be fairly quickly reversed once I end my fast.

I dread cancer. Cancer is bad enough that, for me, a non-painful annual fast of 7-10 days seems like a reasonable sacrifice in order to reduce my chances of cancer. Check out the logic in the posts linked below, read up on fasting, and see what you think.

Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:

I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

See the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.

John Locke: Democracy, Oligarchy, Hereditary Monarchy, Elective Monarchy and Mixed Forms of Government

   image source        Exercise: Which form of government was the “Roman Republic”?

image source

Exercise: Which form of government was the “Roman Republic”?

Chapter X of John Locke’s 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government, “Of the Forms of a Commonwealth” is only two sections long— Sections 132 and 133. It simply details different forms of government and their operation from John Lockes’ point of view. The best way I could think of to illuminate this chapter was by providing links to the Wikipedia article for each form of government John Locke mentions. The links are on the labels of each form of government. These Wikipedia articles are fascinating.

For good measure, let me also provide links for the Wikipedia articles on Government and State (polity). What John Locke calls a “commonwealth” is what most political science literature calls a “state” in the sense of a polity.

Here are Sections 132 and 133 with the other links:

§. 132. THE MAJORITY having, as has been shewed, upon men’s first uniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in them, may employ all that power in making laws for the community from time to time, and executing those laws by officers of their own appointing: and then the form of the government is a perfect democracy: or else may put the power of making laws into the hands of a few select men, and their heirs or successors; and then it is an oligarchy: or else into the hands of one man, and then it is a monarchy: if to him and his heirs, it is an hereditary monarchy: if to him only for life, but upon his death the power only of nominating a successor to return to them, an elective monarchy. And so accordingly of these the community may make compounded and mixed forms of government, as they think good. And if the legislative power be at first given by the majority to one or more persons only for their lives, or any limited time, and then the supreme power to revert to them again: when it is so reverted, the community may dispose of it again anew into what hands they please, and so constitute a new form of government: for the form of government depending upon the placing the supreme power, which is the legislative, it being impossible to conceive that an inferior power should prescribe to a superior, or any but the supreme make laws, according as the power of making laws is placed, such is the form of the commonwealth.

§. 133. By commonwealth, I must be understood all along to mean, not a democracy, or any form of government, but any independent community, which the Latins signified by the word civitas, to which the word which best answers in our language, is commonwealth, and most properly expresses such a society of men, which community or city in English does not; for there may be subordinate communities in a government; and city amongst us has a quite different notion from commonwealth: and therefore to avoid ambiguity, I crave leave to use the word commonwealth in that sense, in which I find it used by king James the First; and I take it to be its genuine signification; which if any body dislike, I consent with him to change it for a better.

For links to other, more substantial John Locke posts, see these John Locke aggregator posts: 


The Hidden Cost of Not Having a Carbon Tax

One of the costs of not having a carbon tax is all the energy, air time, moralizing and moral posturing that goes on as a very ineffective alternative to a carbon tax. By taking people’s willingness and desire to be good for this purpose, we may exhaust it for other purposes. G.C. Archibald, in his book Information, Incentives and the Economics of Control, p. 5 writes:

We owe to Adam Smith the insight that matters go more smoothly if institutions are such that private and social interests coincide. D. H. Robertson (1956) put it clearly. "What do economists economize on?," he asked. This was not a rhetorical question. His answer was: Love. He explained that is scarce and that it is wasteful to depend on it for everyday arrangements that depend, or can be made to depend, simply on self-interest." 

Here, he cites Dennis Holme Robertson's essay "What Do Economists Economize on?" in his book Economic Commentaries.

Experiments also suggest that if people are “good” in one way, they may feel entitled to be bad in some other way. Here is Dan Ariely’s explanation of this principle in the article flagged above:

The basic principle operating here is what psychologists call “moral licensing.” Sometimes when we do a good deed, we feel an immediate boost to our self-image. Sadly, that also makes us less concerned with the moral implications of our next actions. After all, if we are such good, moral people, don’t we deserve to act a bit selfishly?

Moral licensing operates across many areas of life. After we recycle our trash from lunch, we’re more likely to buy non-green products. After we go to the gym, we’re more likely to order a double cheeseburger. This is probably why the person who found your wallet and decided to return it felt justified in taking your cash.

If we could just have a carbon tax, then in our day-to-day activities we could just use our normal self-interest brain cells in order to behave in a way that will keep the planet from frying, and could use our generosity of spirit for other things—like, say, feeling compassion for those who desperately want to be Americans.

Exorcising the Devil in the Milk

In honor of Halloween tomorrow, I will give sugar a holiday from my attacks. Today, the story is about an unhealthy aspect of milk that is actually avoidable without giving up dairy.

In brief, a mutation in cows about 8000 years ago switched amino acids and created a structural weakness at a key place in the important milk protein beta casein. This weak bond then allows 7-amino-acid “peptide” or fragment called BCM7 to break off. (See the image immediately below.) If this 7-amino-acid peptide “BCM7” gets through the intestinal wall it then wreaks havoc on health. And many, many people have “leaky guts” that allow these fragments to get through the intestinal wall.

Fortunately, there is still a substantial percentage of cows that have the original gene and produce milk without this problem. If cows are tested for which variant of the gene they have, then it is straightforward to get milk with the safe “A2” beta casein protein instead of milk with the unhealthy “A1” beta casein protein. And if bulls used for commercial breeding are tested for which of these genes they have, it is straightforward to switch over a herd from a mix of A1 and A2 cattle to a herd that produces only the safe A2 milk.

A2 milk may still have some of the health issues that have been identified for milk, but since most commercial milk in high latitudes is from herds with a lot a A1 genes, most of the evidence for problems from milk is from experiments using A1 milk. So the bottom line here is this answer to my question in another post, “Is Milk OK?”: A1 milk is definitely not OK; A2 milk may well be OK other than a general caution not to consume too much animal protein. (See “Meat Is Amazingly Nutritious—But Is It Amazingly Nutritious for Cancer Cells, Too?”)

In the Boulder area, A2 milk is available not only at Whole Foods but at Safeway. Because a key test is still under patent, certifiably A2 milk that is safe is only sold by the “a2 Milk Company.” Remember to buy only whole milk: I have a post “Whole Milk Is Healthy; Skim Milk Less So,” whose title is too positive if referring to A1 milk, but is about right when referring to A2 milk.

As it stands, the a2 Milk Company is dramatically understating the likely health benefits in its marketing. It is true that double-blind tests have not been done. The rest of this post details other types of evidence out there. In this, I draw on the book at the top, The Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk, by Keith Woodford. I will only present the basic case; the book itself does a great job of rebutting counterarguments. All of the quotations and graphs below are from this book.

Before looking at direct evidence about A2 versus A1 milk, let me start with an intriguing fact: Type 1 diabetes (the autoimmune disease in which the body turns against and destroys its own insulin-producing cells) in children is very highly correlated across countries with heart disease in adults. (See the scatterplot in the screen shot just below.) Because heart disease is so much more common than Type 1 diabetes, this higher level of heart disease is too much to be caused by the higher levels of Type 1 diabetes. Both must have a third cause. (See “Cousin Causality.”) The set of countries is chosen as those that have good data on both diseases and are in a similar income range (so that poverty vs. riches is not a confounding factor).

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 5.46.23 PM.png

Heart Disease: Below is the direct correlation between heart disease and A1 beta casein consumption across countries:

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 5.52.18 PM.png

Here are some key passages about heart disease:

… the correlation between total dairy protein consumption and the incidence of male deaths from cardiovascular disease was quite weak, with an r2 of 0.26. When he looked at the relationship between the deaths and A2 beta-casein consumption it was even weaker, with an r2 of 0.16. However, the correlation between coronary heart disease and A1 beta-casein consumption was exceptionally high, at 0.71. When McLachlan excluded the A1 beta-casein from cheese consumption, the r2 value increased even further to 0.86 for male death rates in 1985 and 0.84 for the death rates in 1990. The justification for excluding cheese consumption from the analysis was based on theoretical (but not proven) evidence that the release of BCM7 is much lower from cheese than fresh milk. (Aspects of this were discussed in Chapter 2.) Female death rates followed a similar pattern, though with slightly lower r2 values.

The statistical tests show that the probability of getting chance or fluke results such as this, whereby the incidence of cardiovascular deaths can be explained to this extent by intake of A1 beta-casein, is less than one in a thousand for both males and females. …

McLachlan also compared the incidence of heart disease in the various states of West Germany. He found that 66% of the variation in deaths from heart disease could be explained by differences in the level of A1 beta-casein intake, based on the different breeds of cattle found in each state. Because there are only eight states, the correlation required for statistical significance was higher than for the other analyses. However, these results are significant at the 2% level (p< 0.02). This means that the likelihood of getting such a result by chance is less than one in fifty. …

Iceland and Finland provide some more interesting evidence. Ethnically, these Scandinavian peoples are very similar and they have similar diets. However, Finland has one of the highest levels of heart disease in the world, whereas in Iceland the incidence is only about 60% that of Finland. Is it coincidence that the intake of A1 beta-casein in Iceland is also only 60% that of Finland? (This difference in A1 beta-casein intake is because the Norske cows in Iceland have a higher level of A2 beta-casein and a lower level of A1 beta-casein in their milk than the Finnish cows.)

There are two other bits evidence about heart disease. First, in rabbits prepared to be especially vulnerable to damaged arteries, A1 milk did much more artery damage than A2 milk. Second, it used to be a common recommendation that ulcer sufferers drink milk to reduce their symptoms. Doctors went away from this advice because it was found that drinking milk led to much higher rates of heart disease in ulcer sufferers. Note that ulcers are one type of “leaky gut.”

Type 1 Diabetes (the autoimmune disease): Below are scatterplots for Type 1 diabetes against A1 beta casein intake across countries on the left and for all beta casein intake on the right. Note how the relationship is tighter for A1 beta casein than for all beta casein. The r2 is 84% for A1 beta casein, only 46% for all beta casein (of which A1 beta casein is a part).

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 8.45.35 PM.png

In addition to this cross-country evidence, there was a big, messed-up study of mice and rats in which the few non-messed-up comparisons possible show A1 beta casein causing Type 1 diabetes in two strains of rodents and no effect in one other strain.

Here is a key summary passage about Type 1 Diabetes that includes some additional bits of evidence:

All of the known jigsaw puzzle pieces linking A1 beta-casein and BCM7 to Type 1 diabetes have now been presented. Readers now need to make up their own minds as to whether the overall story is convincing. A brief summary of what we know and don’t know may help. We know for sure that there is a much higher rate of Type 1 diabetes in countries where there is a high intake of A1 beta-casein.

We know that statistically this is extremely unlikely to be due to a chance event. We also know that if A1 beta-casein is not indeed causative, no-one has been able to produce statistically significant evidence of the actual cause. What we cannot say is that we have 100% proof: we can only talk in terms of very high probabilities.

Animal trials seem to broadly confirm that A1 beta-casein can lead to diabetes. Bob Elliott found that casein diets were diabetogenic in BB rats back in the early 1980s, without knowing which particular component was the cause. Elliott and colleagues then found a very strong relationship between A1 beta-casein and diabetes in their colony of NOD mice. They also found that administration of naloxone, which counteracts the narcotic properties of opioids, stopped diabetes from developing in mice fed A1 beta-casein. Then the FAD trial showed that diabetes-prone BB rats in Canada had a higher rate of diabetes when fed A1 beta-casein in combination with Prosobee than when fed A2 beta-casein in combination with Prosobee, and that this difference was statistically significant. The rest of the FAD trial was a total mess.

Human blood tests indicate that Type 1 diabetics have more antibodies to A1 beta-casein than do non-diabetics, and these results are statistically significant. We also know that the only difference between A1 and A2 beta-casein is one amino acid in a string of 209, but that this single difference is what causes BCM7 to be formed during the digestion of A1 beta-casein. We also know that the BCM7 molecule formed from A1 beta-casein has a structure very similar to an amino acid sequence in the insulin-producing cells, and this provides a possible explanation of how antibodies attacking the BCM7 could also get confused and attack the insulin-producing cells. And we know that cattle infused with BCM7 have a reduced insulin response.

Autism and Schizophrenia: Here is a summary passage on autism and schizophrenia in relation to A1 and A2 milk:

It is now time to summarise the big picture in relation to autism and schizophrenia. It is apparent that many autistics and schizophrenics excrete abnormally high levels of BCM7 and other similar peptides in their urine. This declines markedly when these people are placed on a gluten-free and casein-free diet. The investigations by teams led by Cade, Reichelt and Shattock in three different countries confirm this.

We also know that BCM7 is released by the digestion of A1 beta-casein, but is either not released at all, or only in tiny amounts, from A2 beta-casein.

Numerous investigations show that eliminating casein and gluten from the diet leads to a marked improvement in the symptoms of autism. Once again Cade, Reichelt and Shattock stand to the fore, together with Reichelt’s colleague Ann-Mari Knivsberg. However, none of these medium- to long-term trials has been undertaken using double-blind protocols. Such trials are exceptionally difficult to conduct, but several are being planned. There is one published trial with significant results where the investigators were blind, and several other trials where they were not.

We also know that when BCM7 is injected into rats it causes them to act in a bizarre fashion, with many symptoms that resemble autism. Also, that the BCM7 enters many areas of the brain that are linked to autism, whereas similar peptides from gluten cannot access most of these areas.

We know that many thousands of parents of autistic children use a GFCF diet and believe it has benefits, but we also know that individual case studies such as this are not necessarily reliable.

We also have unsolicited testimonials supplied to A2 Corporation by parents of autistic children who have been given A2 milk. These parents believe their children are better on A2 milk than ordinary milk.12 Once again, these are only observational case histories that lack controls. However, these results seem plausible, in that we know there is unlikely to be a release of BCM7 from A2 milk.

Other Autoimmune Diseases and Allergies: For other autoimmune diseases, much of the evidence is about milk or beta casein in general. But BCM7 has the right kind of biological activity to be a prime suspect. For allergies and milk intolerance, anecdotal evidence is decent that A2 milk is less problematic. (Indeed, some people who think they are lactose intolerant might find they do OK with A2 milk.)

Once again, readers can now use the evidence to draw their own conclusions. In the case of milk intolerance and allergy, it seems likely that A1 beta-casein, and the milk devil BCM7 that is derived from it, are indeed implicated. Is it likely that so many consumers could all be wrong, particularly when the symptoms, such as diarrhoea, are well defined? Also, the story is totally consistent with what we know of the pharmacology and biochemistry of BCM7.

In the case of the auto-immune diseases discussed in this chapter, the story is somewhat more murky and speculative. What we do know for sure is that for each disease there is one or more environmental trigger. We also know that milk keeps coming up as a prime candidate. If milk contains the cause then it almost certainly has to be one or more bio-active proteins in the milk. It is also likely that opioids are involved. It is hard to go past BCM7 as a likely candidate.

Conclusion: As I mentioned above, this is only the basic case against A1 milk. Keith Woodford’s rebuttals of counterarguments are also very important. If you doubt the basic case, get the book on Kindle and check out the rest of the argument. To the simple counterargument “Why haven’t I heard this already?” there is a story of commercial and scientific politics, plus the simple fact that people can cook up arguments to disregard anything but expensive double-blind trials, and then argue that those arguments mean it isn’t worth doing those expensive double-blind trials.

Some New Zealand dairy farmers have been changing their herds over to A2 cows, but it is still a small fraction of all diary farmers there. If only a dairy powerhouse of New Zealand shifted to A2 herds more fully, it would change the commercial and scientific politics there, which in turn would help us get additional evidence about A1 vs. A2 milk.

In finding A2 dairy products, one basic fact to know is that the mutation at issue is mainly only in cows. Any goat dairy product is A2 and so safe in this sense. Buffalo dairy products (like the Buffalo mozzarella at Costco) is also A2. And the A1 gene is rare in sheep, which combined with the fact that BCM7 is probably not released as easily from cheese makes me feel safe with Manchego cheese from Costco, which is from sheep milk. Butter doesn’t have a lot of protein in it anyway, but I have been eating mostly goat milk butter from Whole Foods. Ghee, or clarified butter, is safe because it has no protein in it.

At retail, the thing I can’t yet find is A2 cream or A2 half-and-half. I have resorted to combining A2 milk with organic cream from Costco—which has some A1 protein in it, but hopefully not too much, since it is heavily fat.

Let me end by saying that the one thing I would be very scared to do would be to feed infants or young children regular A1 milk or the many dairy products (including many types of infant formula) that have A1 beta casein in them. Infants’ guts tend to be especially permeable to peptides like BCM7. Human milk is safe.

Someone asked me whether nursing mothers should avoid drinking A1 milk themselves. The answer to that is easy: nursing mothers should avoid A1 milk for the sake of their own health just like all other adults and children.


I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

See the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.

Christian Kimball: Revelation and Satan

  Chris Kimball in 2008

Chris Kimball in 2008

When my brother Chris read my post “Less is More in Mormon Church Meetings,” he wrote some excellent comments on that post immediately, but also had more to say. Below is his guest post, followed by links to Chris’s other guest posts on supplysideliberal.com.


What Happened?

In the September 2018 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Church”), the President of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, and the next in line and current 1st Counselor, Dallin H. Oaks, spoke of revelation and referred to Satan in talking about the proper name of the Church and about the Proclamation on the family (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”).

This is a big deal.

It’s not as though the words are never used. In my lifetime there have been about 4,700 talks or sermons at Church general conferences; the word “revelation” has come up almost 3,900 times, and the word “Satan” has come up more than 1,800 times.

It’s not that I take the words literally. If you view “revelation” as a Moses-on-Sinai theophany, and “Satan” as ultimate evil personified, then every use is a big deal by definition. That’s not me, but it is descriptive of mainstream orthodox Church members. Most importantly, Presidents Nelson and Oaks know that about mainstream orthodox members, and know they are calling on those literalist beliefs when they use the words.

My Take

Without pretending to read minds, what I hear in the references to revelation and Satan is an argument by authority and fear, suggesting that these men see existential threats about which reason and persuasion have failed and all that’s left is authority and fear. Couched in the language of the Church, these are calls to arms against an enemy.

The Name: President Nelson says the name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This scans as trivially true. But he then says to use nicknames is “a major victory for Satan.” Fighting words.

Escalating to such an extent says to me that the word “Mormon” has become dangerous, has become a near existential threat that must be addressed. To make sense of “threat” I reflect on phrases I have heard and used in the 21st century: “big tent Mormonism,” “More Than One Way to Mormon” (which I associate with the Sunstone Educational Foundation around 2016), and “middle-way Mormons” (More millennial Mormons are choosing a middle way — neither all-in nor all-out of the faith, Salt Lake Tribune, September 29, 2018, an article in which I was quoted). Considering these phrases, it feels like President Nelson is saying NO--rejecting the phrases, rejecting the words, rejecting the idea. His emphasis on the proper name, and most importantly his rejection of nicknames, stands as a powerful reinforcement of boundaries. It suggests “Mormon” as it has come to be used threatens the integrity of the Church. That “Mormon” allows too much inside the tent. The Church has lost control of the word (not legally, but sociologically) but cannot afford to lose control of who claims it.

The sense of boundary, of defining ins and outs all over again, is reinforced by post-conference reports of members being challenged with claims of heterodoxy or apostasy for slipping in a “Mormon” in the wrong place. On a personal level, I recognize an outing. I am “ethnically” Mormon to the nth degree. But I feel excluded from the body of the Church by having the name reinforced. I respect the Church’s requests (although the lack of an adjective form is causing conniptions for everyone I know). But I don’t sustain the move, I don’t think it is necessary or wise, I don’t believe. Yet by his rhetorical choices, President Nelson has made the name an article of faith, which now defines me as an outsider.

Why is a noted heart surgeon with decades of experience in high church callings resorting to “revelation” and “Satan”? I hear the call to authority and fear as the last arrows in his quiver. President Nelson has tried reason and persuasion. He spoke to the name issue in the April 1990 general conference. In the following conference, in October 1990, Gordon B. Hinckley countered with a call to make good use of the nickname “Mormon” and addressed Elder Nelson’s earlier address and arguments, by name. Argument has been tried, and failed. This time around, Hinckley is gone and Nelson is in charge. With what might be heard as petulance and is certainly defensive and last-straw-ish, President Nelson says (emphasis in the original):

  • It is not a name change.

  • It is not rebranding.

  • It is not cosmetic.

  • It is not a whim.

  • And it is not inconsequential.

    Instead, it is a correction. It is the command of the Lord.

I think the name correction is a point President Nelson sincerely feels is mandatory, a must have. And the only thing he’s got left to make the point is authority and fear.

The Proclamation: About the Proclamation (understood to be in opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBTQI issues generally), President Oaks says: “Modern revelation defines truth as a ‘knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come’ . . . That is a perfect definition for the plan of salvation and ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World.’” And then punches it up with “Satan . . . seeks to destroy God’s work . . . He also seeks to confuse gender, to distort marriage, and to discourage childbearing.”

As I have written elsewhere, for a church and religion built on gender essentialism--that declares a personified embodied gendered essentially cis male God the Father, and a weakly recognized but still embodied gendered essentially cis female Mother in Heaven—there is no room for homosexuality or same-sex marriage or family structures other than binary pairs. Where gender is essential and defining, LGBTQI issues are threatening. In practical effect, the Church’s only option is exclusion.

But why is a highly respected jurist with equally many decades of high church experience resorting to “revelation” and “Satan”? I hear the call to authority and fear as the last arrows in his quiver. President Oaks knows the arguments have been made in courts across the country—and that they have failed. The Proclamation was written to assemble church teachings about family and gender and marriage so that it could be presented to courts (starting with an amicus brief in Hawaii in 1995) to argue for an overriding interest in preserving one-man-one-woman marriage. The argument failed in the courts, partly because society has moved, and partly because science and (secular) history are on the other side. The result is that from and after Obergefell in 2015 the Church and especially President Oaks has moved to “revelation” and “Satan” rhetoric.

I think the opposition to same-sex marriage is a point President Oaks sincerely feels is mandatory, a must have. And the only thing he’s got left to make the point is authority and fear.

What’s Next?

Doing my own prophesying here, I think this is dangerous territory for the Church, as it would be for any church. As I read Western culture in the 21st century, including at least two generations younger than me, I think “in or out—follow me or bust” rhetoric is more likely than not to end at out and bust. There is a risk (and I hear the whisperings) that the name comes across as trivializing revelation and criticizing past authority, leading to a far-reaching re-assessment of the value and power of authority. There is a risk (and I hear the whisperings) that the LGBTQI issues are not believed. That there are now and will be a growing number of members viewing the Church’s stance as opinion demanding but not deserving loyalty. Certainly I hear these whisperings among people who are inclined to disagree anyway. But from surprising corners I hear comments like “I agree with the principle but not the method.”

What does it mean when you shoot your last arrow and it doesn’t strike the target?


A Conversation with Clint Folsom, Mayor of Superior, Colorado

In the US political system, one of the most important dimensions of social justice is a matter of local politics: giving people of modest means a chance to live in nice towns and cities within a reasonable commute from jobs. I felt a tug of civic duty to do my part toward this end in my home town of Superior, Colorado. (See “Miles Moves to the University of Colorado Boulder.”) Superior, Colorado is a town of 4 square miles, with 12,483 residents in the 2010 census. Along with Louisville across the Denver-Boulder Turnpike (US Route 36), it is the first town on the road from Boulder to Denver after the greenbelt that surrounds Boulder.

In Colorado, we vote by mail; my ballot is already sitting on my kitchen table. But even in a town of Superior’s size, I thought I could make a bigger difference as a journalist with an activist tilt than as a voter alone. My interview here of Clint Folsom, Mayor of Superior, who is up for reelection this month, is my first effort in this direction.

When I emailed him to ask for an interview at his mayoral email address, Clint replied with a personal email account, explaining that since my interview seemed campaign related, he thought he should avoid using his mayoral email account. We met at his real estate brokerage office in the neighboring town of Louisville because like most small town mayors, Clint isn’t provided any office space at Superior’s Town Hall.  

Contrary to some negative stereotypes, I have the view that successful politicians are usually quite talented, smart and impressive people. Clint has the kind of intelligence, social skills and self-confidence that lends itself to being a successful politician.

Clint told me he had moved to Superior 20 years ago a few years after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  I said how much I had enjoyed living in Superior the last 2+ years. One of the most recent things I have come to appreciate about Superior is how, without leaving Superior, I can get from Safeway, Costco and Whole Foods any of the particular types of food I have been recommending in my Tuesday diet and health posts that I can get in any store in the Boulder area. Clint said that when he talks to other mayors, the retail they have on their wish list for their cities was the kind of retail Superior has. Those stores generate a lot of sales taxes as well as benefits for consumers. (There is also an excellent mall in a neighboring town—FlatIron Crossing—that generates benefits for consumers from Superior, but no sales tax revenue for Superior.)

I had reassured Clint that this was a combined in-person, email interview, and that what we said on email could overrule anything said in person. I had emailed four question in advance; the last I added on the spot. Here they are, with a distillation of Clint’s answers.

1. What do you see as the big issues going forward for the city government of Superior?

Clint explained that Superior has a town manager, who has the primary agenda-setting power in the town, so that the mayor’s official role is chair of the “Board of Trustees,” which is just another name for the city council of Superior. In addition, as mayor he has substantial ceremonial duties. He said he does ribbon cuttings with the giant scissors for new businesses—big and small—in Superior, and talks to school children about the town government.

Clint also attends regional meetings of mayors. There, they mostly talk about transportation issues. A big issue locally is that a ballot initiative was passed that raised taxes in order to pay for passenger rail from Denver to Boulder. This hasn’t happened. The cost was seriously underestimated at the time of the ballot initiative, in part due to extra costs associated with new safety regulations, specifically PTC or positive train control, which are intended to reduce the possibility of head-on collisions. The original plan was for the transportation authority to buy time on an existing freight train track but that was complicated because the owner of the track won’t allow power lines needed for electric passenger trains to be installed above the tracks. Diesel passenger trains are probably the only option, but diesel trains take a long time to stop and start, making it hard to have as many stops and slowing things down generally. At that point, busses become the more convenient and faster option. Clint thinks everyone should face reality and redirect those funds from a rail project that no longer looks so attractive toward other transportation initiatives. (I suggested more frequent bus service as a simple possibility. For example, currently the bus to the Denver airport only runs once an hour, except at peak times.) Clint said changing directions would require another ballot initiative, coupled with an extensive public education campaign—no easy thing. In the absence of that kind of facing of reality, Clint said that local voters understandably are skeptical of other transportation ballot initiatives, even those that are at the state, rather than the regional level.

In direct answer to my question of big issues going forward for the government of Superior, Clint talked about the effort to find some community space that could be used for gatherings, say of up to 150, and subdivided for smaller classes like scout meetings or art classes. Currently, the available spaces would only accommodate about 25 people at a time. A big discussion was whether a community space of this sort should be combined with a recreation facility. The trouble there was all the competing recreation facilities in town that drive down the benefit/cost ratio for an additional recreational facility. They Board of Trustees started by talking about something modest, but the benefit wasn’t enough to get people excited. Then the Board of Trustees started talking about something that could get people more excited, but it was quite expensive. Clint now leans towards a community space somewhere in the new Downtown Superior development.  He would also like to explore the idea of expanding the usage of Superior’s two outdoor pools which are currently only open for three months of the year during the summer.  A retractable roof or other options to cover one of the pools could allow for year-round usage and a better use of our existing assets.  

2. I love the trails in Superior, but one thing I admire on the occasions when I take a walk on the Coal Creek Trail in Louisville is the "There is No Poop Fairy" campaign. I wondered if Superior might do a similar campaign. Relatedly, I have thought that I see some extra dog poop on trails where garbage cans are far away. 

Clint liked this idea, and said that an open space committee could take it up. (There are actually two different open space committees in Superior.)

3. Superior is such a wonderful city, I wanted to ask about your views on allowing construction (particularly near the bus station) to make Superior financially accessible for additional people to move in and enjoy everything we have here.

It was interesting to see Clint’s mind at work here. He sees it as important for Superior to a town where people at different income levels can live, and agreed that the area near the bus stop at the Denver-Boulder Turnpike is a great place to put additional residential developments. This land is currently part of a large shopping area. Big box retail has done well in that area, but smaller retail hasn’t always done well there, and more people living right there could help. He said any retail area has to keep running to stay in the same place; doing nothing usually leads to decline. Adding residential developments right there in the retail district near the bus stop could be just the right thing to keep that retail area vigorous. He mentioned how much that retail district contributes in sales taxes—its health matters for Superior’s finances.

A nice example of how Clint was thinking through all the practicalities of new residential development in the retail district by the bus stop was a point he made that residential parking needs and retail parking needs dovetail nicely together: peak residential parking needs are at night, while peak retail parking needs are during the day. So it could work well for retail and residential to share parking lots in that area.

Clint said that, of course, height of apartment or condo buildings in that area would be one of the most controversial issues. I made the case that if the developer agreed to make a tall building beautiful in exchange for a liberal height requirement, it could be great to have a skyline for Superior with a landmark building that would give homes to many people.

One thing I had thought about before the interview, but forgot to mention to Clint is that as soon as one thinks on a regional basis, even if a new building is made up of luxury apartments, it still contributes to affordable housing, because everyone who moves to one of the new luxury apartments frees up another housing unit somewhere in the area. As people of middle incomes then move to fill those vacancies, at the end of the chain, affordable housing opens up. That is, because of supply and demand, it is the total number of units that matters most for “affordable housing” in the region, not whether those particular units are low-rent or not.

4. I'd also be interested in asking a few "horse-race" questions. I don't yet have a good sense of local politics and where the battle lines (if any) are drawn, and how strong the different sides are.

Mayors and Board of Trustee members have four-year terms in Superior, staggered at two-year intervals.

Clint is running against two other candidates for mayor: Gladys Forshee and Jack Chang. Clint said he had won 80% of the vote against Gladys in 2014. Gladys is a long time resident of Original Town Superior which is a collection of small miners cabins—some over 100 year old when Superior was founded as a coal mining town.  Gladys is a staunch defender of keeping Original Superior as-is.

About Jack Chang, Clint said that Jack had made an offer to buy some land from the Town of Superior at the intersection of Coalton and McCaslin to build a charter school and what sounded like a startup incubator. The land in question wasn’t for sale and the Board of Trustees unanimously rejected his purchase contract then a week later Jack decided to run for mayor. Clint and many others thought that was a conflict of interest on Jack’s part. I argued that if Jack was basically a one-issue candidate on behalf of that idea for using that plot of land, that in the unlikely event that we won the election, he might reasonably be said to have enough of a mandate for that to overcome the conflict-of-interest worry.

I asked about the other races. The other Board of Trustees races seem quite competitive. Six candidates are running for three seats. Unfortunately, even for Clint, it is very hard to discern the policy views of those running for the Board of Trustees. Clint said that pretty much everyone would say they were for “smart growth” and “careful growth” and for “honoring past agreements.” But these phrases hide differences that show up when specific issues come up for a vote by the Board of Trustees.

Some Trustees in the past have said in meetings (that are all on video) that they don’t think low-income people are a “good fit” for Superior. But you wouldn’t know what I would call their “anti-poor” views from their campaign signs, which have no real content other than the name. (Name recognition is the only thing the signs are going for.)

The ballots for town officials in Superior are nonpartisan. Sometimes voters want to know Clint’s party. Clint describes himself as “unaffiliated” with any political party. My reaction was that it would be much more useful to know whether a candidate was in favor of making it possible for people of all income levels to live in Superior or not than it would be to know their political party.

5. About how many hours do you spend as mayor, and how much are you paid as mayor? What about Board of Trustees members?

Clint said he spend about 20-30 hours a week as mayor. He has been paid $500 a month for being mayor; that will go up to $750 a month in 2019. He guessed that Board of Trustees members spend about 10-25 hours a week on thing related to that role. They have been paid $300 a month; that will go up to $500 a month next year. Clint said they aren’t doing it for the money. At those rates, I believe that.