Where and When: Our guest speaker forum meets from 2-3pm on Sundays before the regular Alternative Banking meeting whenever we can schedule good speakers. We meet in room 409 of the International Affairs Building of Columbia University at 420 W. 118th Street (& Amsterdam Ave). Note: the meeting room is on street level. Do not take elevator.
June 18, 2017: We are delighted to have Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause NY to speak about the “Big Money’s Plan to Shred the Constitution“.
There is a stealth effort, funded by ALEC, to call a Constitutional Convention to institute a balanced budget amendment and potentially other malfeasance. The threat is very real. They already have 29 states, only five short of what is needed to call for a convention. Fred Wertheimer CEO of Democracy 21 and former Common Cause legislative director said, in 2015, that the call for an Article V constitutional convention was ‘by far the most dangerous thing in the country today” and three additional states have signed on since then. Susan will talk about the effort, the threat it poses and what can be done to marshal opposition.
Common Cause is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that empowers ordinary people to make their voices heard.
June 11, 2017: Please join us in the conversation with Lisa Servon – Professor of City Planning at the University of Pennsylvania and former dean at The New School. Her latest book is The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives – an urgent and incisive exposé of our broken banking system and why Americans are fleeing traditional banks in growing numbers.
May 21, 2017. Please join us to discuss the Independent Democratic Conference and why it’s bad for New York. Our speaker will be Gus Christensen.
April 30, 2017: Please join us for the talk with Dennis Hooks, who is a lifelong advocate for financial services that work for everyday people. As the founder and president of retirement planning app plynty, he now guides product and sales teams working to revolutionize financial planning. He will focus on three points:
- Overview of financial planning strategies and how they serve the top 1 or 2%
- What is needed to service the mass market
- How plynty serves the 99%
April 9, 2017: Anna Callahan, who leads a new group called The Incorruptibles, will Skype from Berkeley to talk about their program to forge incorruptible politicians. She will lay out the history of corruption and inequality in the US over the last 90 years and why this is the number 1 issue facing America, as well as the progressive movements that these have led to. She will then explain the constellation of organizations working to fix this issue and how you can help.
March 26, 2017: Please join us for a conversation with Tom Sgouros – the author of recently published paper “Funding Public Pensions: Is Full Funding a Misguided Goal?” The report highlights some of the effects of generally accepted accounting rules for public pension and it argues that the accounting rules used to evaluate a pension system are part of the problem. The paper examines the logic behind accounting professionals advice that public pensions be fully funded as private pensions must be.
The report argues that this logic doesn’t apply to public pensions, since municipalities and states don’t face the same risks as companies. The paper is accompanied by a CalSTRS data-based online visualization modeling the sustainability of a partially-funded pension plan—underscoring its viability and ability to fulfill current and future obligations.
February 26, 2017: Suresh Naidu discussed pros and cons of Jobs Guarantee and Universal Basic Income
February 12, 2017: Gerald Adams discussed the moral case for a Universal Basic Income. Human aspect of notorious BIG
Comments and questions regarding on UBI from or provoked by Gerald’s presentation
February 5, 2017: Gary and Dan will give an overview of a Guaranteed Jobs Proposal
Jan. 29, 2017: Dan and Rob will give an overview of Universal Basic Income Guarantee (UBIG)
Sept. 25 – Nov. 13, 2016: We discussed each of the six planks of the Movement for Black Lives Platform.
November 20th, 2016 Left Forum Video “How Do We Build a Mass Movement to Reverse Runaway Inequality?” a panel discussion on U.S. inequality. Les Leopold, The Labor Institute, Between The Lines Radio Newsmagazine.
October 30, 2016: We took a break from the Movement for Black Lives to screen and discuss the film 13TH.
September 18, 2016. We are super excited to announce that our own Jarrettia Adams has agreed to speak about her recent trip to Cuba. Jarrettia’s focus while traveling in Cuba was the impact on the material conditions of life for ordinary Cubans brought about by the the reestablishment of US/Cuban diplomatic relations in 2014. This focus included opportunities to speak with individuals involved in current forms of unofficial antiracist, feminist and other social movements, on which she will also report.
September 11, 2016. We are super excited to announce that our own Cathy O’Neil has written a book Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. From the book review by Richard Beales: “O’Neil had an epiphany in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis: mathematical models were “not only deeply entangled in the world’s problems but also fueling many of them.” A convert’s passion runs through the book as the author explores how math can flip over to the dark side. Flawed algorithms, applied widely, become the WMDs of the title”.
“O’Neil calls on modelers to take more responsibility for their algorithms and on policy makers to regulate their use. But in the end, it’s up to us to become more savvy about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.”
June 12th, 2016. “What happened to Occupy in Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley?: Report back, discussion, take-aways and plans for action” with Heather McKee Hurwitz, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow at Barnard College in Sociology and the Athena Center for Leadership Studies.
May 15th, 2016. Our speaker (via Skype from LA) will be Hamid Khan, coordinator for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition – Campaign to Rescind Special Order 1(1) is an alliance of different organizations (and, in our case, individuals), each with their own interests, mission and vision, that come together to collaborate and take collective action together toward a common goal(s). The coalition rejects all forms of police oppression and any policy that make us all suspects in the eyes of the State. Its vision is the dismantling of government-sanctioned spying and intelligence gathering, in all its multiple forms.
April 24th, 2016. We excited to announce that our good friend Jan R. Weinberg of Show Up! America will be giving a talk about his research on the Influence of the Military-Industrial Complex On Public Policy and the Trade Agreements. Here is a description of the topic: Violence, Incorporated – An Exposé on the Influence of the Military-Industrial Complex on Public Policy and the Trade Agreements. http://www.peopledemandingaction.org See TPP Downloads.
April 17th, 2016. Cary and Chris Good will talk to us about the neighborhood struggle with Museum of Natural History over its plans for development that will colonize public Teddy Roosevelt Park. Please note that there will a public hearing on the fate of the park on April 6th at 6 PM at 79th and Columbus Avenue hosted by the NYC Parks Department.
April 10th, 2016. We are excited to announce that our speaker will be Joss Greene, who is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Columbia University, a prison abolitionist, and a fighter for racial justice and trans liberation. His academic and political work centers around policing and imprisonment of queer and transgender people. His most recent project documents grassroots reentry support systems created by transgender women of color in the San Francisco Bay area. He argues that these networks of collective support and resource sharing are more effective than caseworker-based social services in helping trans women achieve economic stability after release from incarceration. This project suggests that we rethink “direct services” to incorporate existing kinship networks, community leadership, and a vision for transforming conditions of inequality.
March 20th, 2016. We are excited to announce that Chuck Zlatkin will be our speaker. He will talk about the latest developments in the push for Postal Banking.
March 13th, 2016. Please join us in a conversation with Tom Adams about a potential luxury urban condo market bubble in NYC and around the world. What are the implications of this sort of bubble deflating or bursting? What would the impact be?
March 6th, 2016. We are excited to announce that David Glick, Mara Kravitz and Todd Arena from NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative (NYC REIC) will give a talk about how NYC REIC leverages the political power and patient investments of members to stabilize neighborhoods and build an inclusive, resilient city.
February 14th, 2016. We are excited to announce that Afua and Sumumba will discuss the impact of gentrification and grassroots efforts to resist it. This is part 4 of an on-going series on real estate in NYC.
February 7th, 2016. We are excited to announce that Rob Hollander will be our speaker. He will talk to us about community involvement in real estate planning, the role of community boards and non-profits. This is part 3 of a 4 (or perhaps 5)-part series on real estate in NYC.
January 31st, 2016. Tamir Rosenblum spoke about the economics of real estate development and how government involvement is leading to substandard construction. This was part 2 of a 4 (or perhaps 5)-part series on real estate in NYC.
January 17th, 2016. We are excited to announce that Radhika Sainath who is a staff attorney at Palestine Legal and cooperating counsel at the Center for Constitutional Rights will be our speaker. She will talk about treatment of pro Palestine activists on campuses.
January 10th, 2016. We are excited to announce that John Krinsky will be our speaker. He is associate professor of political science at the City College of New York, with an interest in labor and community organizing in New York. He specializes in urban politics, the politics of social movements, and the politics of work, welfare and labor. New York City faces a rental housing crisis, with homelessness at record levels, more than a million households spending over 30% of their incomes on rent, and the number of apartments renting for $1,000 or less plunging fast. The city has an opportunity to manage this catastrophe, argues John Krinsky, by reviving a policy it pioneered in the “dark days” after the 1974 fiscal crisis: that of taking control of tax-delinquent property neglected by private owners and transferring it to nonprofit managers who will keep it permanently affordable.
November 22nd, 2015. Please join us to watch a documentary Je ne suis pas Charlie. Film Shows Chilling Climate for Muslims in Post-Hebdo France. (The link above is to Glenn Greenwald’s article about it.)
November 15th, 2015. Crypto-Socialism? What’s next? Please join us in the conversation with Dmitri Kosten about Bitcoin, blockchain technology and its potential impact on the society. There’s a lot of excitement about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. We hear about startups, investments, meetups, and even buying pizza with Bitcoin. Optimists claim that Bitcoin will fundamentally alter payments, economics, and even politics around the world. Pessimists claim Bitcoin is inherently broken and will suffer an inevitable and spectacular collapse.
October 18th, 2015. From 2-3pm please please join us in conversation with the daughter of the victim Susie Johnson of an illegitimate foreclosure speak about how it happened, her efforts to get justice and an upcoming action to protest it. See the event page for the action.
October 11th, 2015. Please join us in conversation with Gerald Adams who will talk to us about meditation practices. MEDITATION: OCCUPY THE FUTURE – OCCUPY YOUR MIND: Is meditation a practice that sees the world more clearly or is it a glorified cocoon? Can it assist those in political struggle, or only help those wanting to ‘Think Big and Grow Rich’? Lets examine.
September 13th, 2015. Please join us in conversation with Nick Levis who will fill us in on the goings on in Greece. There’s an election scheduled for Sept. 20th. Nick Levis will talk about the remarkable developments over the summer with the Troika assault, the popular response to the referendum, the new form of financial war, the government capitulation and the new kind of colonialism that has been established in Greece.
July 26th, 2015. Please join us in conversation with Elly Spicer to learn about why apprenticeship is being rediscovered as a promising alternative to the traditional college route (which so often merely brings indebtedness and few new job opportunities). .Elly was most recently the Director of the NYC Carpenter’s Labor Technical College,which trains approximately 1200 apprentices each year, both in class, and by working with the Carpenters’ unions to assign them to “on the job” training where signatory contractors pay them a respectable apprentice wage, and contribute towards their health insurance among other benefits.
June 28th, 2015. Anna Bernasek and D.T. Mongan will join us to discuss their new book “All You Can Pay: How Companies Use Your Data to Empty Our Wallets Data giants know everything about us before we enter stores or open our browsers. We may think that the Internet lets us find the best deals, but the extensive information companies have about us means that the price we see tends toward the maximum they know we can pay. In a momentous shift, the economics of information will turn our economy on its head.
June 21st, 2015. Please join us in conversation with Sumumba Sobukwe – the founder and co-creator of Occu-Evolve, which is currently the longest running and last organized and active groups within the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Among a few topics, Sumumba Sobukwe will discuss the future of Occupy Wall Street and why poor and working class people tend not to join the movement.
May 24th, 2015. We are super excited to welcome our speaker Audrey Sasson from Wal-Mart Free NYC, which is a coalition of concerned workers and residents, small business owners, community leaders, clergy, and elected officials. Walmart Free NYC is committed to increasing economic opportunities, preserving local businesses, and bringing more and better jobs to communities across New York. For up to date information please check Wal-Mart Free Facebook page.
May 17th, 2015. The Alt Banking Group will be holding our regular meeting at a new location in Red Hook this Sunday. The kind folks of BrooklynPlans have offered us the use of their space at 351 Van Brunt St. The meeting, from 3-5pm, is open to all! Please come.
May 10th, 2015. Data privacy and government surveillance have been one of the topics we have discussed at our meetings. A few days ago the Senate Republicans introduced a bill to continue the NSA’s authority to collect U.S. telephone records. To sort all these complicated issues, we are excited to announce that Julia Angwin – a senior reporter at ProPublica and the author of Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance – will be our speaker.
(Our own Cathy O’Neil wrote a review of Julia Angwin’s book).
May 3rd, 2015. Please join us in the conversation about life of homeless people with Scott Hutchins, who has lived in the New York City homeless shelter system since 2012.
April 12th, 2015. In the effort to understand the complex and fascinating Real Eastate Market of NYC, we are excited to announce that Tom Adams will join us to lead a discussion on the issue. In addition, there might be more news about the recent NYCHA’s lease program.
March 15th, 2015. Please join us to welcome Mickey Paoletta – the author of the book “The Deconstruction, Banking and Money Dynamics”. He will talk about debt, inflation and law vs. the public.
March 8th , 2015 Please join us for the first US screening of Who’s saving whom? At first the threatened economies were being rescued and then whole countries were being bailed out since 2008. Politicians are juggling with increasingly new multi-billion rescue packages, while people are again working for starvation wages in Europe. There are many rescue packages but there is no salvation in sight. The documentary film „Who is saving whom“ shows the truth about who is saved: It was never about saving the Greeks, or the Spanish or the Portuguese. It was always about the principal earners of these crises: the banks that contributed with high-risk speculations. We, the taxpayers and socially disadvantaged, are expected to put up with these massive billion euro risks. For the big banks the financial crisis is mainly a business model.
February 22nd, 2015. Argentina and the Vultures: For nearly a decade, Argentina has been embroiled in a fierce legal battle with a group of holdout creditors widely known as “vulture funds.” Multiple US courts have ruled that Argentina must pay the vultures or not pay any of its creditors at all, yet whether these courts will be able to force a foreign sovereign to obey them is still an open question. Our guest speaker Sophista is a researcher working on the case, and will speak to us about the history of the vulture strategy and why these rulings have raised criticism from mainstream financiers, the US executive branch, and foreign governments alike. Please join us.
February 15th, 2015. Our speaker is Jonathan McMillan – the author of The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution. The book explains why a financial system without banking is both desirable and possible in the digital age. The first part of the book presents the functions and the mechanics of traditional banking. It discusses how a delicate balance of government guarantees and banking regulation kept the flaws of banking under control in the industrial age. The second part explains how the digital revolution unsettled this balance. The rise of shadow banking is explained, and it is shown how an unsustainable boom in the shadow banking sector led to a banking panic: the financial crisis of 2007-08. The third part shows that the digital revolution has played a dual role. Information technology not only undermined the effectiveness of current banking regulation, but it also rendered banking redundant. An innovative blueprint for a modern financial system is presented and the implications of the end of banking are discussed.
February 8th, 2015. Please join us to welcome Katya Cohen – the author of The American Spellbound – a tale of Wall Street excess. The central figure of the book is Vika Stakhanova who has everything figured out. “You’re either on Wall Street or you are a bum and there’s nothing in between,” she reasons. She’s an exemplary, abiding, thoroughly institutionalized member of the American corporate world. Vika does not have any friends; she has acquaintances. She does not have ideals; she has a comfortable niche. She does not have interests. She’s consumed by her pursuit of the “game.” Whatever personality she once had has been cemented and thrown into the river, mafia-style, away from sight. On Wall Street, personality is bad for business. Her usual MO is snark and derision – de rigueur qualities of a cynical and weary Manhattan dweller…
The financial collapse didn’t just destroy the way of life for millions of ordinary Americans, it also destroyed our carefully built narratives about hard work, merit and fairness. What does hard work mean? What are we working hard toward? When Vika asks herself those questions, in a rare moment of clarity, she panics. What happens when we come face-to-face with such dilemma and realize that our old mental arrangements just don’t work anymore?
February 1st, 2015. We will have two presentations this Sunday.
Please join us to welcome Michael D. White (an attorney, urban planner and former government public finance and development official) and Carolyn McIntyre. They will talk about how Citizens Defending Libraries came about, what it’s done, what it hopes to accomplish and how folks can get involved. Much more information can be seen in this post and on the Citizens Defending Libraries site.
Also on Feb. 1, this one from 4-5 pm, Nick Levis will fill us in on the goings on in Greece. As you probably know, a left-wing, anti-austerity coalition called Syriza just won the election and formed a government.
January 25th, 2015. Please join us and Tamir Rosenblum to talk about the non-union developer-Goldman Sachs-HPD-Mayoral coalition that is behind current NYCHA’s lease program. As we understand public bonds are going to enable the sale of 900 NYCHA units to the worst non-union developers, on what appears to basically be a no-risk deal for the developers (public money is going to pay for the difference between the NYCHA rent-rates and market rates). The labor record of these developers is just abysmal, and by making public housing essentially private, more likely it will allow these guys to use their regular, utterly exploited undocumented immigrant workforce to do the renovation work without prevailing wage obligations applying.
January 18th, 2015. Interested in how you can invest in local businesses? We have a great speaker on the subject: Michael H. Shuman is an economist, attorney, author, and entrepreneur, and a globally recognized expert on community economics. He is one of the architects of the crowdfunding reforms that became the “J.O.B.S. Act,” signed into law by President Obama in April 2012. Shuman is currently Director of Community Portals for Mission Markets and a Fellow at Cutting Edge Capital and Post-Carbon Institute. He’s also a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). He is also an adjunct instructor in community economic development for Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
December 21st, 2014 Please join us in the conversation with Fog Of War (not his real name) about taxes. The US tax code is more than 6600 pages long. It is super complicated. Needless to say, we won’t be able to cover it all, but will try to get a better understanding of certain parts of it. For example, deductions. What if mortgage interest deduction would disappear? How would it effect households and construction industry? (Just a note: Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do not allow mortgage interest deduction and still have same incidence of home ownership). Is it a good idea to have a flat tax rate for individuals and corporations? If you have questions about taxes, please prepare them for the tax expert.
December 14th, 2014. Laura Hanna and Hannah Appel, of Strike Debt & the Debt Collective, will join us to talk about their ongoing work.
December 7th, 2014. Chris Rose – the founder and Executive Director of REAP (Renewable Energy Alaska Project) – will share his experience and ideas on how to start and implement renewable energy projects.
After working as a fundraiser for various non-profit public interest groups around the United States he received his law degree in 1990 from the University of Oregon, with a Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law. For over 10 years his private practice in Alaska included representation of Native Alaskans from Northwest Arctic villages and the mediation of a variety of disputes around the state..
November 30th, 2014.The three concepts of Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) are intimately linked to the concept of Responsible Investment (RI). RI began as a niche investment area, serving the needs of those who wished to invest but wanted to do so within ethically defined parameters. In recent years it has become a much larger proportion of the investment market. Interested in Responsible Investment (sometimes called) Impact Investment? Please join us in the conversation with Auros Harman of HIP Investor (HIP = Human Impact + Profit). We also will touch on how to identify leading indicators of financial performance in the ESG frame work and how we, regular folks, can make an impact in the investment sector.
November 9th, 2014. The Internet of Money? Many people are excited about Bitcoin or, more generally, digital currencies and other applications of blockchain technology. Josh Snodgrass will discuss why people are excited about this, how digital currencies work, where they now stand and what the future could look like – both good and bad.
For a good introduction to Bitcoin, you can take this short online course.
October 26th, 2014 Please join us to discuss the latest development in the muni bond market with Tom Sgouros, who is a freelance public policy analyst, engineer, and writer. He makes his home in Rhode Island, an ideal laboratory for studying the effects on the local economy of poor public policy and broken finance markets. In 1991 he became a banking analyst in a hurry upon the onset of Rhode Island’s very own banking crisis. Since then, he has consulted to dozens of elected officials, candidates, and activists, in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, California, Vermont, and elsewhere around the country, about public finance, banking, tax policy, and sustainable economic development. His latest book is Checking the Banks.
August 24, 2014
Best-selling British author Nafeez Ahmed will speak on Mass Surveillance and the Crisis of Civilization: The inevitable collapse of the old paradigm and the potential for the rise of the new. The international security scholar and investigative journalist writes for The Guardian on the geopolitics of interconnected environmental, energy and economic crises . As advance reading for this talk, we recommend browsing through his Guardian articles, including the widely read June 2014 piece, Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown”