pattern language, politics, theology

COMMENT ON: America Without a Middle Class

Read the Article I’m commenting on at HuffingtonPost

The notion that a middle class has done everything right, played by the rules, etc., is hardly useful. The entire society has been euchred by the assumption that it was/is in the right track. It isn’t. Many of the issues that need to be faced cut through simplistic notions of class.

We are a drug saturated society from the depths of poverty to the heights of affluence.

We are an oil/energy saturated society whether we live in a project or a penthouse.

Those who live behind gates spend most of their money on things that provide little more quality of life than is available to someone with enough smarts to see through the bling.

One solution to our problem is to move beyond the assumption that things would be ok if the imbalance were not so severe. If money were more available to enable further purchases of the current line of products — illegal drugs, sexy cars, ostentatious dwellings, ugly fashion, violence-saturated mass entertainment and synthetic food — we would, in the words of my friend Bill Horwitz, still be sad.

pattern language, politics

Fear of A Double Dip Recession

This does not have to be long.

It was $4 gas that alerted folk to a Big Change. They held on to what was left of their money, had enough left when it went down, and now are spending again. (Except for those who got ruined.)

What do you think will happen when oil mkes its inevitable climb once again? Same thing.

Fact is, the need for major change is not realized sufficiently and we are going to pay.

Density of population is needed for a vibrant economy to flourish. Pattern Language produces this density with a max of three stories, by creating largely pedestrian settlements, by doing commerce locally and not a drive away.

It may be that folk will catch on. The enemies remain the car, the superhighway, the notion of endless oil and the willingness to grit teeth and accept the constraints of what passes for life in metrosprawl.

I think we are moving toward Diabetic Nation and that a macabre idea would be to start creating T shirts for obese children with the legend DIABETIC IN TRAINING.

The double dip recession should inform us — the next cigarette is not bottled water — it is diabetes. The cause is not walking.

The solution is pattern language, integral thinking, not being hoodwinked by superficial media and cultivating taste and discrimination as the due of every person, the prize we have lost by accepting the notion that everything must remain the same.

The solution is getting out there and creating communities of sufficcient density and diversity that work, commerce, entertainment, sports, religion, society and so forth can begin th flourish in the same general area.

Giving up driving everywhere is the first step to stopping a double dip recession. The second time could be more depressing than the first.

More on Pattern Language:

See the brief at and then read in sequence:

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four,, Part FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart NinePart TenPart ElevenPart TwelvePart ThirteenPart Fourteen

pattern language, politics

Are We In A Permanent Recession?

Are We In A Permanent Recession?

Matthew Yglesias writes:

… if the recession ends, then it seems likely that we’ll slip right back into a new recession. I wish that weren’t the case, and that everyone would just react to an oil price spike by biking to work, but realistically we don’t seem to have made nearly the scale of adjustments that would be necessary to let the country shrug off a return to oil that costs over $4 a gallon. SOURCE

In essence he is saying what we should have known when Frank Lloyd Wright wrote, wrongly, that we would all plant vegetable gardens in our suburban lots. Mother earth incarnate. No takers.

My impression is that Yglesias is all for some incremental moves that would signal some acknowledgment of the need to move beyond slavery to an oil economy. But he also knows that incremental moves will not achieve the change that is called for by the current crisis.

The perfect storm in the world is created by the collision between finite oil and continued slavery to the notion of private automobiles. Both these forces create a dysfunctional society that eats away at the possibility of a humanity that is not itself profoundly dysfunctional.

At the center of what is dysfunctional is the suburb which is entirely subservient to the requirements of the car. The combined costs of the car, the detached house and the costs created by reliance on the automobile is indeed the origin of a permanent recession. This is why there has been no bounce-back in valuation of either cars or detached houses. In essence, these are becoming less and less marketable.

The solution to this conundrum would be simple enough if our vaunted designers and architects and planners could do what Wright failed to do — stop being naive about human nature and stop building the car into everything. In fact, eliminate the car from the areas where people live. And reintegrate into living areas all the institutions and services needed to create well-rounded lives.

The thought of Christopher Alexander and the constellation of ideas we associate with the phrase pattern language is the answer to the economic crisis which is at bottom not economic but evolutionary.


Seen differently. we are not in a permanent recession but in the throes of a move in the market away from what hurts us to what helps us. It is that simple. What helps us is not something we can buy with money but what we can earn by the application of common sense and some smarts to the problems we face.


President Obama on The Task Before Us


Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Washington, DC

Last week, I spent a few days in California, talking with ordinary Americans in town halls and in the places where they work. We talked about their struggles, and we talked about their hopes. At the end of the day, these men and women weren’t as concerned with the news of the day in Washington as they were about the very real and very serious challenges their families face every day: whether they’ll have a job and a paycheck to count on; whether they’ll be able to pay their medical bills or afford college tuition; whether they’ll be able to leave their children a world that’s safer and more prosperous than the one we have now.

Those are the concerns I heard about in California. They are the concerns I’ve heard about in letters from people throughout this country for the last two years. And they are the concerns addressed in the budget I sent to Congress last month.

With the magnitude of the challenges we face, I don’t just view this budget as numbers on a page or a laundry list of programs. It’s an economic blueprint for our future – a vision of America where growth is not based on real estate bubbles or overleveraged banks, but on a firm foundation of investments in energy, education, and health care that will lead to a real and lasting prosperity.

These investments are not a wish list of priorities that I picked out of thin air – they are a central part of a comprehensive strategy to grow this economy by attacking the very problems that have dragged it down for too long: the high cost of health care and our dependence on foreign oil; our education deficit and our fiscal deficit.

Now, as the House and the Senate take up this budget next week, the specific details and dollar amounts in this budget will undoubtedly change. That’s a normal and healthy part of the process.

But when all is said and done, I expect a budget that meets four basic principles:

First, it must reduce our dependence on dangerous foreign oil and finally put this nation on a path to a clean, renewable energy future. There is no longer a doubt that the jobs and industries of tomorrow will involve harnessing renewable sources of energy. The only question is whether America will lead that future. I believe we can and we will, and that’s why we’ve proposed a budget that makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy, while investing in technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and fuel-efficient cars and trucks that can be built right here in America.

Second, this budget must renew our nation’s commitment to a complete and competitive education for every American child. In this global economy, we know the countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, and we know that our students are already falling behind their counterparts in places like China. That is why we have proposed investments in childhood education programs that work; in high standards and accountability for our schools; in rewards for teachers who succeed; and in affordable college education for anyone who wants to go. It is time to demand excellence from our schools so that we can finally prepare our workforce for a 21st century economy.

Third, we need a budget that makes a serious investment in health care reform – reform that will bring down costs, ensure quality, and guarantee people their choice of doctors and hospitals. Right now, there are millions of Americans who are just one illness or medical emergency away from bankruptcy. There are businesses that have been forced to close their doors or ship jobs overseas because they can’t afford insurance. Medicare costs are consuming our federal budget. Medicaid is overwhelming our state budgets. So to those who say we have to choose between health care reform and fiscal discipline, I say that making investments now that will dramatically lower health care costs for everyone won’t add to our budget deficit in the long-term – it is one of the best ways to reduce it.

Finally, this budget must reduce that deficit even further. With the fiscal mess we’ve inherited and the cost of this financial crisis, I’ve proposed a budget that cuts our deficit in half by the end of my first term. That’s why we are scouring every corner of the budget and have proposed $2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade. In total, our budget would bring discretionary spending for domestic programs as a share of the economy to its lowest level in nearly half a century. And we will continue making these tough choices in the months and years ahead so that as our economy recovers, we do what we must to bring this deficit down.

I will be discussing each of these principles next week, as Congress takes up the important work of debating this budget. I realize there are those who say these plans are too ambitious to enact. To that I say that the challenges we face are too large to ignore. I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next President or the next generation – I came here to solve them.

The American people sent us here to get things done, and at this moment of great challenge, they are watching and waiting for us to lead. Let’s show them that we are equal to the task before us, and let’s pass a budget that puts this nation on the road to lasting prosperity.

end of oil, oil

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart Sings The Wrong Song — Better Mileage Won’t Cut It

Moody-Stuart told BBC that the EU should ban cars that do not get good mileage. This is like trying to dilute a vial of poison with a drop of water in order to minimize its effects. The world is going to move beyond oil and when it does it will be because the current inconvenient truth charade morphs into a genuine dialogue about how humankind can create integral settlements that do not require the continued services of private automobiles. The world will wake up to this soon, I trust. In the meantime, just as unsafe at any speed is a palliative, Moody-Stuart is a singer whose lyric is too mild to have the desired effect.

Another Ameliorative Approach — Vision Beyond Is What We Need


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