Bank Failures Since 2000

The FDIC posts on its website the banks that have failed since 2000. Note that 13 banks failed in 2008, which is a record. The second largest number of bank failures were in 2002 with 11 failures.

Here are the numbers:
2008: 13 banks failed
2007: 3 banks failed
2006: 0
2005: 0
2004: 4 banks failed
2003: 3 banks failed
2002: 11 banks failed
2001: 4 banks failed
2000: 2 banks failed

Katrina and the perils of out of touch leadership

Veve_gede Last night, I watched the first half of Spike Lee's documentary on Katrina and New Orleans, When the Levee Broke. The only other film that has shaken me in terms of race relations in the US was when I first saw, Roots, as a kid. I remember not being able to speak to white people for 3 days after that series.

While "When the Levee Broke" does not make me want to stop talking to white people, it does make me want to shout at our public officials and the people who keep voting uncaring and out of touch politicians into office. The two most shocking aspects of the film for me where:

Some conspiracy theories are actually based on historical empirical knowledge

Accusations that the levees where intentially bombed or left unfinished and weak are not so crazy when the same levees were dynamited in 1929 and 1964 to flood the 9th Ward and other areas in order to protect the City of New Orlean's more affluent areas, including the French Quarter. The way in which rationalist governmentatity seeks to discount the perspectives of people who know their history fills me with a rage for the arrogance on leadership, which does not know that its purpose is to lead through service.

The American leadership is out of touch with the reality of American lives

The recalling of who was where days 3 to 5 of the tragedy again demonstrates that leadership should be based on empathy for the people whom you serve not on a decontextualised list of priorities. The image of President Bush flying over the tragedy represents the perils of an orbiting approach to decision-making, whether that orbiting is based on the belief in a strong ideology or political expediency. When an elected official takes an oath of service, he or she should be given a curse. This curse would make them feel the pain and anguish of the most desperate and underserved human that his or her decisions affect.

Voting Rights Act: Forty years of American Freedom

Onemanonevote This morning I watched President Bush's presentation to the NAACP. Now it is not an exaggeration to say that Bush's policies in the last 5.5 years has exacerbated many of the "problems" that affect the African American community, which stem from the lack of economic justice in the US.

Bush's writer took him through the 500 years or so of oppression of black people, starting with the Founding Fathers not being the only one who built America, but also the slaves. It is harrowing to hear your history being told by someone you know does not empathize with that history. Its like he was saying all the right things you are supposed to say about African American history, mentioning Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr, but leaving out Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey, but it had no meaning.

What was fascinating to hear is the audience response to Bush's messages. While his claims about the persistent existence of racism received lots of applause and a couple of "amens," his outlining of his policies for No Child Left Behind, AIDS in the Africana community, and unemployment met with few polite claps to dead silence. He was being heckled during the last 5 minutes of his speech. He even seemed to be given a nudge to return to the discussion of the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Mohammed, my husband, said that one of the things he loves about African Americans is they are the only group in America who could tell the President to hurry up. This is because we have heard it all before, only the Native Americans have a longer string of broken promises.

What I love about African Americans is that we are the one people who, given a history of soul-crushing oppression, survived with our humanity in tact, and more importantly we took that history and hope to advocate for a better world for all regardless of race, ethnicity religion, gender, creed, and national origin.

I always say that I am one of the first generations of African Americans to really be born free. It is a constant vigil to maintain that freedom, in which the extention of the Voting Rights Act is a fine step.

Expanding the war on terror to Iran and Syria

Anyone who has spent 10 minutes watching Fox News in the US will come to realize that we, the US, are preparing to go, preferrably multilaterally, after Iran and Syria as the next front on the War on Terror.

Fox's framing of the conflict seems to focus on the fact that the rockets that Hezbollah are using were from Iran and Syria. The interpretation of this fact is that Iran and Syria are the ones "pulling the strings" in the conflict. Whether Hezbollah is fighting on behalf of Iran and Syria, I do not know, but it seems faulty logic to draw connections between those who provide the weapontry and those who use it. In that case, the US, with its $16.4 Billlion in military sales in 2004, would be "pulling the strings" of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Japan, Israel, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Australia, UK, Jordan, and South Korea as the top ten purchasers of US weapontry.
Download CRS report for Congress.pdf  Wow, this looks like the coalition of the willing for the war in Iraq.

The Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora appeared on Fox and was asked about the role of Iran and Syria.  Fox just having shown the bodies of injured Lebanese children critiqued the focus on Iran and Syria. Not allowing himself to be interrupted by the anchor, he passionately decried the "overkill" of over 50 children and women in Beirut. When they wanted to allow their field reporter to ask a question, the Prime Minister hung up on Fox News. The void was filled by two pundits who ignored what the Prime Minister said about Isreali killings to focus on his lack of criticism about Hezbollah.

The whole thing made me very sad because as a people, the US seems easily misled by how issues are framed by the media. I think about how many people still believed that Saddam Hussein had some relationship Al Queda after the President finally said that there was no connection.

So the war machine continues, I hope this time We the People will not accept war with Iran and Syria under false pretenses.

What design can't fix

Butterfly_postersletter_page_1 The recent narrow victory of Felipe Calderon in the Mexican presidential elections remind me of the American 2000 Presidential elections. Although I've heard no cries of poor ballot design in the Mexico election, it does remind me of the aspects of the election experience that design cannot fix, at least not directly: the current spate of narrow margins in election results.

Is it due to more centralist tendencies in political parties, where the distinctions between candidate positions are sometimes extremly narrow?

That may often seem to the case pre-Election 2000 in the US, when people used to say that there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. Yet in spite of the current controversy on Senator Lieberman and Hillary Clinton's pro-war positioning, no one claims that the Republican and Democratic parties are the same. And this was clearly not the case in the Mexican election, in which the positions of Calderon (pro-business and close to US) and Obrador (leftist and closer to Latin America) were not similar at all but represented quite different platforms.

Thus at least for Mexico, the issue seems to be the ideological and political desires of the voting public and perhaps the inablity of political officials to create a platform that "speaks" to people's interests, which admittingly can be quite contradictory themselves.

I am reading an article by Adam Berinsky of MIT that says that electoral reforms that have been done to lower the barriers to participation in voting (vote-by-mail, voter registration, relaxing absentee ballot reqs, and internet voting) have not addressed the actual barriers to political participation, especially for those of lower socio-economic classes, which are political information and interests.

His idea hinges on the need to study the "cost of political engagement" and an understanding of the mechanisms by which interest in politics is created. In the DforD Election experience model, we came up with a typology of voter types:

  • Avid voters, who vote all the time and are the ones who are most engaged in the entire election process
  • Civic voters, who vote as a civic duty and are engaged in the idea of voting, but may not be engaged in specific issues or candidates
  • Issue voters, who are engaged with specific issues (education, the environment, abortion, gay-marriage) and will come out to vote when those issues are on the platform
  • Excluded voters, people who could be or may want to be engaged in the election process but are disenfranchised for structual reasons. This is the group that most electoral reforms who to address.
  • Apathetic voters, those who are completely disengaged from the election process.

This model of voter types could be a first step in analyzing the dynamics of political engagement and its costs, on a cross-cultural basis if possible. If we understand the dynamics of the Issue and Apathtic voters we could have a picture of political engagement and perhaps develop actionable communication and experiential design solutions to address them.

So I recant, there are things that Design (uppercase D when combined with strong ethnographic research) can fix if we shift the discussion from participation to engagement.

Download Berinsky article.pdf

the Protest March

In the NY Times today, there is an article on small town midwestern Latinos participating in  pro-immigration marches. A few weeks ago, Chicago was the site of a large protest march against the immigration bills that threaten to criminalize illegal immigrants and those who assist and/or hire them. Literally, Jackson street was tied up with people from sidewalk to sidewalk for 4 hours straight.

Recently, French students held protests and marches that successfully caused the government to scrap plans that made it easier to hire and fire French youth.

All of these events have got me thinking about the protest march as a form of civic participation and the efficacy of this particular form of engagment.  For a long time, I have been ambivalent.

I am too young to have experienced the US Civil Rights Marches in the 1960s, although they loom in the my black imaginary as the hegemonic model of protest politics. Side note: There is a wonderful commentary on the show Boondocks, on the Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, that proposes that Martin Luther King did not die, but rather went into a coma. When in wakes in 2005, he gets branding as a traitor for "turning the other cheek" about terriorist and then has to hire a marketing firm to get out his message to the new generation based on hip-hop and hedonism.

I did not participate in any of the Million Man, Women, or Children marches in the 1990s. Mostly because of the emphasis on the black male as the force of black political engagement . Plus, there were no new legislation or structural changes that were to come out of the protests.

Due to post-structualist indoctrination at Stanford, I am familiar with the May 1968 "failed" revolution of the Paris student movement.

With the rise of polling technologies worldwide, it seems that there is less need for mass demonstrations. Since previously to polling, protests were the main means by which to gage popular support for a policy item.

All of which had lead me to belive that the protest march was basically dead as a force for generating social change. Yet, does the April 2006 Paris protests, the Latino Immigration Rights movement going on now, even the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine mean that the protest march remains politically effective? There seems to be specific messages and mechanisms that make the protest march work as a force for social change:

  • a broad-based coalition,
  • international financial and organizational support,
  • a government willing to listen,
  • a media willing and able to report events,
  • a specific legistrative and/or executive structure to be changed
  • not to mention, strong symbolic messaging (ex. Orange ribbon) and
  • clear communication of purpose and expected outcomes (ex. Say no to legistration X)

Yet, I wonder what people can do when they lack the above mechanisms.  But then, maybe I realize that I am not a protest march kind of woman. I work better as an inside change agent who advocates internally to implement the changes for which the protesters are agitating. For me, the protest march opens the question of what is civically-engaged design versus propoganda. Or does it mean that design can always play both sides of the fence?