Setting Up YouTube Live

WP YouTube Live is a free WordPress plugin to display live videos on a WordPress site.

To get started, follow these instructions:

Enable Streaming on YouTube

  1. Decide if you will stream from a personal account or a brand account. Read more about the differences in this article.
  2. Decide how you will stream video.
  3. Enable streaming for your account; see this article for details.

Set up the YouTube Data API

  1. If you don’t have a Google account already, sign up here.
  2. Log in to the Google Developers Console:
  3. Create a new project if you don’t have one already.
  4. Go to the Credentials page:
  5. Click the “Create Credentials” button at the top and choose “API key” and copy the new key
  6. Go to the Enabled APIs page:
  7. Search for Youtube Data API v3 and enable it.


Install the WordPress Plugin

  1. Go to the plugins page on the backend of your website.
  2. Press the “Add New” button and search for “WP YouTube Live.”
  3. Install and then activate the plugin.
  4. Go to Settings > YouTube, enter your channel ID and API key, and choose what to display when no video is live.
  5. Add the [youtube_live] shortcode to the page where you want the video player to appear.


For other support questions, please use the WordPress support forum.

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter is a fascinating look at what happens to people’s stuff when they no longer want or need it.

The first couple of chapters discuss people decluttering on their own or disposing of a deceased family member’s belongings, often by bringing in a service to go through the stuff and determine what can be sold or donated and what should simply be thrown away.

The second part of the book goes into the global economy of second-hand stuff. For example, all the Goodwill stores in one county take unsold clothing to a Goodwill “warehouse” where clothing is sold for a dollar or two per bag; people purchase truckloads of clothing, drive over the border, and resell it at enough of a profit to make a living.


Between 1967 and 2017, the money that Americans spent annually on stuff—from sofas to cell phones—increased almost twentyfold.

Location 51

Garage sales aren’t where it’s at anymore. Half the stuff doesn’t sell because the prices are too high. Everyone thinks they’re on Antiques Roadshow.

Location 836

In the United States (and in Europe), most secondhand goods are donated rather than sold. As a result, most people lack a financial incentive to take care of their things. So instead of seeing the end of an object’s life as an opportunity to extract some last value from it (as people do with their cars), Americans view that object in philanthropic terms. It’ll help the poor; it’ll benefit the environment. For better or worse, both those reasons have proved to be little incentive to take care of stuff.

Location 1076

None of the cut-up fragments of sweatshirt through which Wilson is rummaging were used in India. Rather, they were likely made in South Asia, exported to the United States, and worn until they were donated to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or some other thrift-based exporter. When they didn’t sell there, they were exported again, to Kandla most likely (or perhaps Mississauga, en route to Kandla), cut up, and exported again—this time to Star Wipers in Newark, Ohio. Each step of that journey makes perfect economic sense, even if the totality of it sounds ridiculous.

Location 2755

Buy the book

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

American Kingpin

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road is an account of how Ross Ulbricht built the Silk Road, a marketplace for illegal drugs (the book several times compares it to “Amazon for drugs”).

It traces the history of how he built the site, and how individuals from several branches of law enforcement collaborated (or competed…) to stop him.

I thought the technical explanations were very good: accurate so a geek like me didn’t get annoyed or frustrated about incorrect descriptions, and short enough to be relevant and informative to others.

Overall I highly recommend it.

Buy it here

The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker


The Secret Life of Pronouns

We spend our lives communicating. In the last fifty years, we’ve zoomed through radically different forms of communication, from typewriters to tablet computers, text messages to tweets. We generate more and more words with each passing day. Hiding in that deluge of language are amazing insights into who we are, how we think, and what we feel.

In The Secret Life of Pronouns, social psychologist and language expert James W. Pennebaker uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics-in essence, counting the frequency of words we use-to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence. Our most forgettable words, such as pronouns and prepositions, can be the most revealing: their patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints. 

Using innovative analytic techniques, Pennebaker X-rays everything from Craigslist advertisements to the Federalist Papers-or your own writing, in quizzes you can take yourself-to yield unexpected insights. Who would have predicted that the high school student who uses too many verbs in her college admissions essay is likely to make lower grades in college? Or that a world leader’s use of pronouns could reliably presage whether he led his country into war? You’ll learn why it’s bad when politicians use “we” instead of “I,” what Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common, and how Ebenezer Scrooge’s syntax hints at his self-deception and repressed emotion. Barack Obama, Sylvia Plath, and King Lear are among the figures who make cameo appearances in this sprightly, surprising tour of what our words are saying-whether we mean them to or not.

My Thoughts

I thought this was a mildly interesting book explaining how people’s use of language reveals a lot about their personality and mental condition.

For instance, when speaking to a superior, people tend to use more personal pronouns, but when speaking to a person under their authority, they tend to use far fewer pronouns. This is an unconscious behavior that happens even within minutes of meeting a stranger.

However, the book didn’t seem especially practical. Many times the author reiterated that we don’t pick up on differences in pronoun usage and must rely on word-counting software to analyze text and find patterns. Because word usage is a symptom, not the cause of our behavior, changing our speech patterns won’t have much effect. Rather, it opens a window into what’s going on internally in a person’s thoughts and emotions.

WordPress and WooCommerce at Scale with 500,000 Users

WordPress generally works fairly well on small-to-medium sites; on larger sites, it can run into performance issues because of the size of the database.

A current project I’m working on for LuminFire has a WooCommerce store with potentially 270,000+ customers, and that’s causing some issues with site performance. For sake of development, our dev store has 500,000+ users.


Generating Dummy Users

First, I generated a CSV file with 50,000 fake users using and imported them using this plugin (I had to bump up my PHP memory limit to 4096MB and execution time to 240 and it still timed out a couple of times, but I deleted the users who had already been imported and then ran the import again).

Update: I have since learned about WC Smooth Generator, and it may have worked just as well or better.

I figured 50K unique users were plenty and duplicating them via MySQL queries was more efficient, so wrote these queries to do the job.

The users queries ran in seconds each, copying a batch of 50K rows at a time. The usermeta queries, not so much…they took about 11 minutes each since there were about 1.71 million rows to clone each time.

In case it’s helpful to you, here are files with the dummy users:

  • CSV with 50K users
  • MySQL dump of wp_users table (30.4MB)
    • It does include the ID field since it needs to match the usermeta table.
    • The first user ID is 510024; if you try to import and have user IDs above 510024, you’ll have errors.
    • 500,000 rows
  • MySQL dump of wp_usermeta table (148.5MB)
    • It does not include the meta_id field (so no errors trying to overwrite existing IDs).
    • 17,000,000+ rows

WordPress User Dashboard

At the top of the user dashboard, WordPress typically displays a list of the user roles on your site, as well as the number of users in each role.

user roles

The number of each users is generated by the count_users function, which uses a resource-intensive SQL query. In our dev site, it takes 15+ seconds just to run the query.

This is a known issue and should be resolved in WordPress 5.0 (currently scheduled for release in late 2018), but we need this working much sooner.

WordPress Multisite drops the number of users per role and instead shows just a list of roles; that’s how and other large multisite networks avoid this performance hit.

The proposed patch on the ticket modifies the count_users function to behave similarly to WP Multisite: if there are more than 10,000 users (modifiable with the new wp_is_large_user_count filter), it doesn’t show the number of users per role.

Since the patch is for the development version of the WP code, it doesn’t apply cleanly to a production site, so I manually patched WP core. Here are several patch files for different versions of WordPress; make sure to use the appropriate patch for your version:

Core Patch File

You can apply this patch file by downloading it, opening your WordPress installation in a terminal, and running git apply <path-to-downloaded-patch-file>.

WooCommerce User Queries

The biggest performance hit I found was searching for customers when editing an order; it took 10–15 seconds for search results to be returned.

WooCommerce user search

  • If searching by customer ID, the backend would respond pretty quickly.
  • Otherwise, it runs a full text search for the search term in the first and last name, which takes a while; see the code for full details.

Since orders aren’t manually assigned/reassigned too often, we decided this behavior was acceptable for now.

WooCommerce Customer Reports

The WooCommerce customer reports were the other major performance hit. For now, we simply disabled the customers reports since this particular customer already has a third-party system where they manage the customer data, so they’re not likely to use the WooCommerce reports.

Customers vs. Guests

Timing details:

  • Around 20–40 sec to load the page
  • Around 7 sec to get administrator users
  • Around 7 sec to get shop_manager users
  • Around 6 sec to get all other users

Here are the actual actual MySQL queries. In my staging environment, PHP ran out of memory; in my local environment, it took 305MB(!) to load the report for 1 week (the default view).

As noted above, we gave up on optimizing this report since the customer doesn’t really need it.

Customers List

This was completely unusable; it took 300 seconds to load the page.

Here are the actual MySQL queries. Two JOINs times in each query with full-text search on two columns × three queries was just too much on such a large table.

As noted above, we gave up on optimizing this report since the customer doesn’t really need it.

WordPress Posts Dashboard

Update: found another place where there’s a 15+ second wait. When bulk-editing posts (or any other post type that supports authors), an author dropdown causes a full search of the wp_usermeta table. I’ve updated the patch file in the gist above to include a fix for this.

WordPress Posts Dashboard bulk edit author dropdown


In summary, having 500,000 users on a WordPress and WooCommerce site doesn’t hurt overall performance too much, as long as you include an upcoming change in WP core and can get by without the WooCommerce customer reports.

We may explore further options to improve performance particularly when getting user roles from wp_usermeta, and I will update this post or add a new post if we find other enhancements.

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon MeachamWritten partially in response to the 2017 white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, this 416-page book examines a number of critical turning points in American history:

  • The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause
  • The backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s
  • The fight for women’s rights
  • The demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II
  • The anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy
  • Lyndon Johnson’s crusade against Jim Crow

In each of these crises, author Jon Meacham contrasts the difference between reactionary fear holding us back and hope for a better future leading us to make positive change:

“Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. … Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer. Fear divides; hope unifies.”—p16

I believe the thesis is in line with 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” We must not allow fear to be our motivating factor when making political—or any—choices.

While not an exhaustive history, Meacham emphasizes a number of presidents and other historical figures to illustrate his point:

  • Presidents
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • Ulysses S. Grant
    • Theodore Roosevelt
    • Woodrow Wilson
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    • Harry S. Truman
    • Dwight Eisenhower
    • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Other figures
    • Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt
    • Civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and John Lewis
    • First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
    • Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph N. Welch


On How We Treat Our Fellow Humans

“When the unreconstructed Southerner is the late nineteenth century or the anti-Semite of the twentieth believed—or the nativist of the globalized world believes—others to be less human, then the protocols of politics and the checks and balances of the Madisonian system of governance face formidable tests.”—p17 (emphasis in original)

I’m personally noticing this in the past couple of years: change (and fear of change) can motivate us to dehumanize others, allowing us to blame and punish them for what we fear.

“W.E.B. Du Bois understood what was happening. ‘In 1918, in order to win the war, we had to make Germans into Huns,’ he wrote. ‘In order to win [the Civil War], the South had to make Negroes into thieves, monsters, and idiots. Tomorrow, we must make Latins, South-eastern Europeans, Turks, and other Asiatics into actual “lesser breeds without the law”’—a quotation from Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 imperial poem ‘Recessional.’”—p116–117

Recent rhetoric, particularly against immigration, has this same theme of dehumanizing others not like us. By lumping them all into categories like rapists, murderers, and violent criminals, we justify treating them in ways we wouldn’t dream of treating our neighbors, friends, and loved ones.

On Private vs. Public Sector

“The American ideal of what Henry Clay had called ‘self-made men’ in 1832 is so central to the national mythology that there’s often a missing character in the story Americans like to tell about American prosperity: government, which frequently helped create the conditions for the making of those men.

“Many Americans have never liked acknowledging that the public sector has always been integral to making the private sector successful. We often approve of government’s role when we benefit from it and disapprove when others seem to be getting something we aren’t. Given the American Revolution’s origins as a rebellion against taxation and distant authority, such skepticism is understandable, even if it’s not well-founded. We have long proved ourselves quite capable of living with this contradiction, using Hamiltonian means (centralized decision-making) while speaking in Jeffersonian rhetorical terms (that government is best which governs least).”—p180

Too often we forget how much the free market depends on services provided by government, particularly for infrastructure: roads, utilities, funding for the invention and development of the internet, etc.

On Political Life

“McCarthy, though, was something new in modern political life: a freelance performer who grasped what many ordinary Americans feared and who had direct access to the media of the day. He exploited the privileges of power and prominence without regard to its responsibilities; to him politics was not about the substantive but the sensational. The country feared Communism, and McCarthy knew it, and he fed those fears with years of headlines and hearings. A master of false charges, of conspiracy-tinged rhetoric, and of calculated disrespect for conventional figures (from Truman and Eisenhower to Marshall), McCarthy could distract the public, play the press, and change the subject—all while keeping himself at center stage.”—p185

Sound familiar? Replace McCarthy’s name with Trump, change “Communism” to “immigration”, and remove the specific people mentioned, and it would remain an accurate description.


This book is a good reminder that fear is restrictive, holding us back from making any real improvement. We must look ahead with hope and work for the common good, not just for what will improve our own situation. It’s also an encouragement that as a nation, we have been through many dark times and ultimately moved past them.

Buy the book→

Menu Image Plugin + DevDmBootstrap3 Fix

This little plugin fixes the Menu Image plugin when used with the DevDmBootstrap3 theme.

Menu Image version 2.9.0 changed the way it displays images, breaking compatibility with DevDemBootstrap3. DevDmBootstrap3 uses a custom menu walker but does not use the nav_menu_item_title filter, so the plugin quit working.

One of my contract positions uses DevDmBootstrap3 for many client sites, so I wrote a basic plugin to get it working again.

Browse the code→

To use the plugin, upload the PHP file to your wp-plugins directory and activate the plugin. That’s it!

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism by Yuval Levin

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism by Yuval LevinDescription

Americans today are anxious—about the economy, about politics, about our government. The institutions that once dominated our culture have become smaller, more diverse, and personalized. Individualism has come at the cost of dwindling solidarity. No wonder, then, that voters and politicians alike are nostalgic for a time of social cohesion and economic success.

But the policies of the past are inadequate to the America of today. Both parties are stuck presenting old solutions to new problems. In The Fractured Republic, Yuval Levin details his innovative answers to the dysfunctions of our fragmented national life. By embracing subsidiarity and diversity and rejecting extremism and nostalgia, he believes we can revive the middle layers of society and enable an American revival.

My Summary

Though only 272 pages long, this book took me more than a month to read, partly due to remodeling and other side projects, but mostly because it’s a “thinking” book. Hardly a page went by without causing a new realization, making a pointed reminder, or bringing up an excellent suggestion.

I cannot recommend this book enough: it gives a framework for understanding much of our current political climate without specifically assigning blame, and offers convincing suggestions for remedying it.

The first half of the book looks at some history from the 1950s through the present, pointing out specific different areas that those on the Left and Right embrace and would like to bring back, and the second half makes a number of suggestions for moving forward.

Below is a basic outline of the book, along with a number of quotes and thoughts that really stuck out to me.

Part I: Out of One, Many

Chapter 1: Blinded by Nostalgia

The Left and Right both long for specific time periods from the past half century and strive to return to the benefits they see from those times: “Democrats talk about public policy as though it were always 1965 and the model of the Great Society welfare state will answer our every concern. And Republicans talk as though it were always 1981 and a repetition of the Reagan Revolution is the cure for what ails us.” (page 15).

This nostalgia blinds us to many of the changes that have taken place in our country and culture during this time period.

He also thinks that we see these years as if we were looking at the life of a person in the Baby Boomer generation:

  • 1950s: wholesome and innocent (childhood)
  • 1960s: idealistic and rebellious (teenage years)
  • 1970s: anxious (college, starting in the workforce)
  • 1980s: more stable footing (early adulthood, family and career growth)
  • 1990s: comfortable and confident (mid-life success)
  • 2000s and 2010s: more fearful and disoriented (older age)

This chapter alone is worth getting the book just for understanding the context of current political viewpoints, discussions, and goals.

Chapter 2: The Age of Conformity (1950s)

As the US came out of World War II, we were a strong, unified, consolidated country—partly due to rationing and the clear moral struggle we perceived between democracy and Nazism/fascism. However, Levin argues, it was a unique “bridge” between two Americas: the increasingly unified and centralized society and government in the first half of the century, and the increasingly diverse culture in the second half.

In the 1950s, much of the country was still relatively consolidated economically due to necessary regulation during the war years, and it was also a low point for immigration as well: by 1950, the percentage of US residents who had been born abroad was 7% (down from 15% in 1910) and down to just 4.7% in 1970.

Progressives tried to “alleviate the plight of industrial workers” by opposing the consolidated government and company ownership with consolidated workers’ unions, democratic political power, and popular cultural power.

“The Left was fighting the cultural constriction while reveling in the economic consensus; the Right was fighting the economic constrictions while reveling in the cultural consensus.” (page 53).

Chapter 3: The Age of Frenzy (1960s–70s)

The 1960s–70s saw many changes and liberalization of culture, economy, etc., with more focus on individualism and a growing distrust of big government, labor unions, and consolidated power.

In the 1970s, Republicans and New Democrats realized that liberalization was not to be resisted and they should instead work with the diffusion and fracturing.

In the 1980s and especially the 1990s, rising inequality and diversity moved people away from large cultural institutions and networks and into smaller more niche networks.

Chapter 4: The Age of Anxiety (1980s–present)

The combination of women and more immigrants expanding the workforce and new technologies driving big productivity gains resulted in a major cultural shift: (page 83)

  • The weakening of our established institutions
  • A growing detachment from the traditional sources of order and structure in American life
  • An intensifying bifurcation of ways of living

American life continued to be concentrated, but at both ends of the spectrum (in ways that pull us apart) instead of in the middle (in ways that bring us together).

  • Economically: both big and small businesses grew, but medium-sized did not
  • Politically: people became more “polarized” on the extreme ends of the spectrum
  • Institutionally: “increasingly, society consists of individuals and a national state, while the mediating institutions—family, community, churches, unions, and others—fade and falter” (page 89).

Not surprisingly, the Left and Right have different explanations for the societal fracturing; the Left blames it on economic equality, while the Right pins it on cultural disintegration and polarization.

Essentially, the Left sees economic change as the root of many of our current issues, while Right sees cultural change as the cause, and both tend to overlook or deny the diffusion and decentralization of society in the past half century.

A couple more pointed reminders from this chapter include these:

  • Midcentury nostalgia cannot provide a guide for today’s society.
  • The constitutional system is adaptable; the 1930s–1960s-style welfare state is not.
  • Those on the Left must realize that consolidated power and programs are not an effective solution, and that giving more options instead of fewer is likely to work.
  • The Right has it a little bit easier since they tend to emphasize mediating institutions—church, community, clubs, etc.—which offer more promise of bringing us together and making improvements, but they should not emphasize radical individualism as much as they do.

Part II: The Next America

Chapter 5: The Unbundled Market

“The Left distorts or exaggerates America’s economic problems and the Right discounts or ignores them. So what are they missing? What are those problems? …The core of what our bipartisan nostalgia obscures has to do with the effects of persistent diffusion and diversification—which in this case involves especially the effects of an intensifying specialization in our economic life.” (page 113).

Several major structural transformations have impacted society:

  1. Globalization
    • Attempts at restraint (protectionism, tariffs, special incentives, etc.) aren’t effective because the benefits of globalization are too great.
  2. Automation
    • The hollowing-out of the middle hurts those at the bottom more than those in the middle, because the “rungs” on the ladder to the “top” are fewer and further apart.
  3. Immigration
    • Immigrants tend to be either highly-skilled (seeking more opportunities for advancement) or low-skilled (seeking any improvement), so immigration tends to increase economic specialization.
  4. Consumerization
    • As workers, we want better pay and options, while as consumers, we want lower-cost goods and services.
    • Employers used to mediate the tension, because the needs of workers took priority over the needs of consumers.
    • Increasingly, we view ourselves as consumers rather than workers, and the shift in mindset has caused companies to shift and prioritize consumers’ needs over employees’ needs.

Some potential solutions:

  1. Address income inequality.
    • Don’t mistake it for a cause as much as an effect of other causes.
    • Make it easier to earn a decent living wage by improving the tax/regulatory system, making healthcare more competitive and affordable, reducing cronyism, and reducing bottlenecks (requirement for college education to get a job, etc.).
    • “If the Left is to help America modernize, and lift up those Americans made most vulnerable by the trends we have been following, it will need to free itself from the anachronism of social democracy.” (page 130).
  2. Re-evaluate social democracy.
    • The welfare bureaucracy is a relic of a bygone age of consolidation. Instead, we need alternatives that help integrate those who need help into society and those mediating institutions of family, church, community, etc.
    • To those on the Right: don’t fight to roll back or shrink liberal welfare state, but seek to “replac[e] their centralized administrative forms with decentralized mechanisms of knowledge discovery at the margins” (page 141).
    • To those on the Left: “advocate for public provision as an option in the resulting competitive markets to restrain the excesses of market provision and serve the unmet needs of the most vulnerable” (page 141).
  3. Decentralize social and economic policy.
    • If we strengthen the markets, we should also strengthen those subsidiary/mediating institutions that help counteract the negative effects of markets.

Chapter 6: Subculture Wars

As “expressive individualism” leads to more specific cultural niches, the centralized mainstream institutions are giving way to more specialized self-selected networks.

Social conservatives for a long time “could plausibly believe that their views about the ideal firms and norms of society were in fact very widely shared” (page 156), while recognizing that many people failed to live up to them. They could see themselves as a “‘moral majority,’ overtly opposed only by a small if influential sliver of radical cultural elites.” (page 157). Increasingly they must—and have—realized that they cannot expect the political system to fit their views.

“Convictional believers” numbers have not changed much, but nominal Christians are becoming unaffiliated. “Many have ceased to view religious traditionalism as an ideal with which to nominally identify and have come instead to see it as an option to reject.” (page 159).

Religious traditionalists no longer speak for the majority or set the standard, and are out of practice defending it. They tend to lament what has been lost more than what might be gained.

The Left looks ahead and sees economic collapse; the Right, moral collapse.

“All sides in our culture wars would be wise to focus less attention than they have been on dominating our core cultural institutions, and more in building thriving subcultures.” (page 165).

Religious liberty has become the “chief rallying cry” for conservatives and is essential, but not sufficient.

  1. It is an “almost exclusively defensive posture”, asking to be protected and left alone rather than selling others on their vision.
  2. It “risks further distorting the larger public’s understanding of what is at stake in the culture wars,” tending to focus predominantly on sexuality, partly because that is mainly what the Left has been attacking.
  3. It “gives social liberals far too much credit and leaves social conservatives far too despairing” (pages 170–172).

“Expressive individualism, if taken all the way to its logical conclusions, points toward moral chaos, and moral traditionalists are therefore its natural critics and opponents.” (page 172).

“In our time, the greatest threats facing social conservatives come not from the profusion of moral practices and views in American life, but from the efforts of some on the radical Left to use liberal-dominated institutions (from the federal bureaucracy to universities, the mainstream media, and much of the popular culture) to suppress and exclude traditionalist practices and views.” (page 173)

The best method to fight back is to build genuine, caring communities, rebuilding the mediating institutions and “keeping things at the human scale.” (page 176).

“Those seeking to reach Americans with an unfamiliar moral message must find them where they are, and increasingly, that means traditionalists must make their case not by planting themselves at the center of society, as large institutions, but by dispersing themselves to the peripheries as small outposts.” (page 178).

Centralized national policies cannot fix the diffuse issues and problems in society. Genuine human connections and community (and the Gospel) can address individual needs, and perhaps we need to grow a new national identity from the bottom up.

Chapter 7: One Nation, After All

This nostalgia for mid-century America blinds us to its bad effects, causes us to keep trying the same formulas, and hinders us from seeing solutions to the very different conditions we have now.

We should use the multiplicity of our society rather than seeing only two binary options of consolidation and individualism. “As a centralized government [the favored solution of the Left] draws power out of the mediating institutions of society, it leaves individuals more isolated; and as individualism [the favored solution of the Right] further erodes the bonds that hold civil society together, people conclude that only a central authority can pick up the slack. That dangerous feedback loop keeps us from seeing the possibility of other sorts of solutions to the problems we face.” (pages 186–87).

“[T]he distinctive political failures of our era are functions of increasingly centralized administration in an increasingly decentralized society.” (page 187)

  • Left: defends centralizing government
  • Right: defends radical individualism

“Their arguments are, in effect, about whether our government should do more or less of the same, and it is not hard to see why the public often finds these debates pointless.”—p187

“[I]nstead of applying their increasingly distinct worldviews to contemporary problems, each party has tended to understand its own increased coherence as an argument for persisting in old policy ideas—for completing the inherited checklists of the Right or Left. Each party so powerfully identifies its political objective with a particular moment in the past that neither is inclined to apply its insights to today’s different circumstances. The name of this problem is nostalgia or anachronism, not polarization.” (page 189; emphasis mine).

The past half-century has seen a growth in personal liberty, as defined by the Left: “the individual’s freedom from coercion and restraint—in essence, the freedom to shape one’s life as one chooses” (page 199), with these limits:

  • Material/economic: the rich have more options than the poor; they try to address that by redistributing wealth.
  • Social/traditional: there has been a huge shift from traditional values to individual ideas of family, sexuality, and culture; they try to address this by promoting pluralism.
  • Political: powerful interests abuse the weak, enforcing their views on moral dissenters; they try to address this by limiting power of those on top (campaign finance reform, free speech, etc.)

The Right’s definition of liberty “is mediated by the concept of rights, and especially property rights.” (page 201).

  • “Government redistribution of property can directly impinge on our rights of ownership, and so can easily be seen as unjust.” (page 201)
  • The “highly individualist conservative idea of liberty is less concerned with giving different people equal power to make their choices matter, and more concerned with letting every individual do what he wishes with what he has—provided he does not take from others. This is an ethic of protection rather than provision.” (page 201, emphasis mine)

Both definitions take for granted the idea of the free human person; the free human informed and capable of using their freedom well is a great achievement socially and has not been seen much throughout world history.

“The liberty we can truly recognize as liberty is achieved by the emancipation of the individual not just from coercion by others but also from the tyranny of his unrestrained desires.” (page 203) This requires moral formation by those middle institutions which are pulled apart from above and below:

  • Family: teaches fulfillment of responsibilities and expectations
  • Work: provides material needs but also “buttresses dignity, inculcates responsibility, encourages energy and industry, and rewards reliability.” (page 204)
  • Education: can form our souls by granting glimpses of artistic genius
  • Civic engagement: helps us realize limits
  • Religious institutions: the “ultimate soul-forming institutions” teach responsibility, sympathy, lawfulness, righteousness

Not everybody has access to these institutions, and reinforcing, sustaining, and “especially putting them within the reach of as many of our fellow citizens as possible must be among our highest and most pressing civic callings.” (page 205)

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Underscores Theme Multiple Menus

If you’re using the Underscores theme (also knows as _s) by Automattic, you may have tried to add multiple menus to the page and been frustrated when they don’t work on mobile.

Here’s a bit of Javascript to add to the theme’s navigation.js file to fix the issue: