Skip to content

A Democrat opens an office in Grand Rapids for the Oligarch Michael Bloomberg

February 19, 2020

Last weekend, WOOD TV 8 ran a story about Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg opening a campaign office in Grand Rapids, on East Fulton. 

Kent County Commission and staffer for State Rep. David LaGrand, Phil Skaggs, was the point for the new Bloomberg campaign office in Grand Rapids. In the channel 8 story, Skaggs said:

“There are major things at stake here and another four years of Donald Trump is going to turn America into a place we don’t recognize,” Skaggs said during a speech. 

Skaggs says he supports Bloomberg because he has a great track record for getting things done and pragmatic solutions. He also mentioned Bloomberg’s campaign being moderate enough to capture voters who are undecided.

The WOOD TV 8 story goes on to say:

When asked about the criticism Bloomberg has faced for the “stop and frisk” policy he instituted while serving as New York City mayor, Skaggs said every candidate may have issues that people may be concerned about.

With this line of thinking, lets look at what issues people “may be concerned about,” as it relates to Michael Bloomberg.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to any serious critique of the billionaire Michael Bloomberg. It is important for people to not be swayed by the ads blitz from Bloomberg, but to do so real investigation of his history.

Wyoming City Commission doesn’t really want diversity and they don’t practice democracy: Movimiento Cosecha GR and the fight for Driver’s Licenses for All

February 18, 2020

On Monday night, Movimiento Cosecha GR went back to the Wyoming City Commission meeting to continue to press for that commission to pass a resolution in support of Driver’s Licenses for All.

We reported on their first attempt to get a resolution passed by the Wyoming City Commission, which was two weeks ago, on February 3rd. At that meeting, several commissioners made it clear that they were not hearing what the immigrants were sharing during public comment. One after another, members of the immigrant community shared with the commissioners that they live in constant fear of police. Several of the commissioners commented that the Wyoming police were not to be fear and were good public servants.

A similar reaction was made by several commissioners and the Mayor of Wyoming, to those who spoke in favor of Driver’s Licenses for All on at the February 17th meeting. Movimiento Cosecha GR had asked on February 3rd to have Driver’s Licenses for All on the agenda for the February 17th meeting. It was not on the agenda for the February 17 meeting.

When it came time for public comment, the Mayor reiterated that public comment was not meant for dialogue, rather it was for people to make statements about issues they were interested it. However, the Mayor also told those present that the Wyoming City Commission discussed the Driver’s Licenses for All resolution request prior to the February 17 meeting and that they decided that this was not a local matter and that state policy makers should deal with state matters, not the Wyoming City Commission.

So, not only was the issue of Driver’s Licenses for All not on the agenda, the commission made a decision without consulting those who presented the issue on February 3rd. There was no public hearing on this critical issue and in the minds of the Mayor of Wyoming and the City Commission, this matter was taken care of. Without missing a beat, the Mayor of Wyoming then told the who came with Movimiento Cosecha GR that they could still share their thoughts with the commission during public comment. In other words, “you can tell us what you think, but we already made the decision to say no to your request.”

Members of Movimiento Cosecha GR still got up to speak during public, with most of them speaking in Spanish and using a translator. This was important to note for three reasons. First, some people who were in the audience did not understand English, so speaking in Spanish benefitted those who were participating in the democratic process. Second, this issue was important to raise, because the City of Wyoming does not provide translation for those who attend public meetings, even though there are 16,600 Latinos that live in that city, according to recent census data

The third reason why this issue is important is because the City of Wyoming would only give people who spoke in Spanish 3 minutes to speak, which included the amount of time it took for people to translate. This means that those relying on a translator would only have half as much time as those who spoke English during public comment. How can anyone claim that this is fair and equitable?

Members of Movimiento Cosecha GR continued to present information about the importance of Driver’s Licenses for All and the fear that they experience without having a driver’s license. Many who spoke did not feel that adhering to the 3 minute time limit, since they were relying on translation, was fair, so several of them continued to speak about the need for a resolution from the Wyoming City Commission. The Mayor kept interrupting and trying to cut them off for going over the 3 minute timeline, even going as far as to call members of Movimiento Cosecha GR “rude.”

Another member of Movimiento Cosecha GR pointed out that during the February 3rd Wyoming City Commission meeting, the Mayor had said that he welcomed input from “minority” communities and that having more diverse people participating in civic matters was good for the city. Well, here was Movimiento Cosecha GR participating in civic matters, reflecting the diversity of the community and the Mayor shut them down.

These kinds of meetings are always presented as democracy in action, yet it has been the experience of Movimiento Cosecha GR that these kinds of meetings are really about local government control, where local governments get to decide what is best for people and where anytime people challenge business as usual they are labeled as disruptive. La Lucha Sigue y Sigue!

We should be concerned about all corporate contributions in the 2020 Michigan Senate Race

February 17, 2020

Last Thursday, the Detroit News ran an article about how the DeVos family has channeled $800,000 to a Super PAC that is targeting Michigan Senator Gary Peters. 

The article breaks down how much each member of the DeVos family has contributed to the Super PAC that is backing the GOP candidate running against Peters, John James. The Super PAC uses the name Better Future MI Fund.

The bulk of the article is typical of how mainstream media deals with the conservative/liberal binary, with comments from both sides, polling data and a brief assessment of the DeVos family influence in electoral politics.

What is missing from the story is information on who has contributed to the re-election campaign of Senator Peters, which should be a basic element of journalism within the framework of electoral politics.

I have seen numerous people posting the Detroit News article on social media, with lots of people expressing concern over the DeVos family’s support for John James. This is completely understandable, considering that the DeVos family has contributed more to political candidates in Michigan than any other family in recent decades. If people read this blog, then they are well aware that GRIID has written a great deal about the DeVos family, possibly more than any other online entity in the past decade, which includes our 400 plus page document on the DeVos Family entitled, We’re Rich and We Do What We Want

However, it is highly problematic to not look at who has been contributing to the Peters campaign, especially since his campaign has raised more money as of the last election finance reporting ($11,578,659), which is $3 million more than what John James has raised at $8,238,521.

Senator Peters is not being funded by benign entities, but many from the corporate world, particularly the military industry. This should not be surprising since Peters is a member of the Homeland Security Committee and the Armed Services Committee. In addition, Peters has been a staunch defender of US empire and US imperialism since he took over for Senator Carl Levin. 

Some of the major contributors to Senator Gary Peters in recent years are: General Dynamics (military), Blackstone Group (global real estate), Dow Chemical, DTE Energy, Goldman Sachs, Ford Motor Company, Visa Inc and CMS Energy. 

The problem with the failure to provide robust reporting on political contributions during an election year is that it often perpetuates the liberal/conservative binary and doesn’t challenge the problem of corporate influence in electoral politics, regardless of which party a candidate belongs to.

In response to Pope’s comments about the global wealth gap, the Acton Institute’s founder says the poor are better off than they were 10 years ago

February 17, 2020

Earlier this month the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, addressed a group of global financial leaders, calling out the growing wealth gap around the world.

The Vatican News posted a summary of the Pope’s comments directed at those who have a great deal of power to direct global economic matters. The Pope’s comments came during a a seminar entitled, New Forms of Solidarity: 

“The world is rich, and yet the number of poor people is swelling all around us.”

Hundreds of millions of people, said the Pope, are struggling in extreme poverty, and are lacking food, housing, healthcare, schooling, electricity, and drinkable water. Around 5 million children will die this year of causes related to poverty, he said.

The Pope went on to acknowledge that there are solutions, stating:

Poverty can be overcome, said the Pope, if an economic system is put in place that includes, feeds, cures, and dresses those left behind by society. “We have to choose what and who to prioritize,” he said. Our choice will lead either to increased social injustice and violence, or to “humanizing socio-economic systems”.

Pope Francis then identified what he referred to as Structures of Sin:

Currently, the 50 richest people possess the equivalent of US$ 2.2 trillion. The Pope said that, on their own, they could finance “medical care and education for every poor child in the world, either through taxes and/or philanthropy” and save millions of lives every year. And he condemned recurrent tax breaks for wealthy individuals as “structures of sin”. “Every year hundreds of millions of dollars – which should be collected as taxes and go to finance healthcare and education – instead end up in offshore accounts,” he said.

Acton Institute Founder Rev. Robert Sirico responded to Pope Francis’s comments in a recent Acton podcast. Rev. Sirico says that the Pope’s claim that poverty is growing is wrong, yet the Acton Institute founder offers no countering evidence, other than to say that all of the organizations that analyze economics have a different take on the matter. Sirico goes on to say that, “the poor are better off today than they were 10 years ago.”

The Acton founder then respond’s to the Pope’s comments about Structural Sin. With a sort of mental jiu jitsu, Sirico states that there is an unfair tax burden on the poor, because it doesn’t allow them to be creative with what they have. Sirico then goes on to say that the tax burden on the rich is also a problem, since, “the rich own the means of production and are the ones providing the poor with jobs.” The Acton founder thinks that businesses shouldn’t be taxed.

Sirico continues the be dismissive of the Pope’s comments, which included his comments about welfare and social services as being problematic. The Acton founder completely avoids any real challenge to the wealth gap that the Pope addressed or any serious policy discussion about capitalism or other forums of solidarity.

Of course, for anyone who is familiar with the Acton Institute’s history, they would know that the organization founded by Rev. Sirico acts as an apologist for capitalism. This defense of capitalism is underscored by who sits on the board of directors and the regular attacks against an economic policy that threatens the system of capitalism. Interestingly enough, in looking at the 990 documents for the Acton Institute, the most recent being from 2017, Rev. Robert Sirico made $259,269.00 as the President. I guess making over a quarter of a million dollars in annual salary is a good reason to be an apologist of wealth and capitalism. 

MLive celebrates the new Amazon distribution center, omits the company’s exploitation of workers and profits from oppression

February 14, 2020

In the past few days, MLive has run two articles on the new Amazon distribution center in Gaines Township.

The first article, from February 10, talks about how many people Amazon plans on hiring for the facility which will likely open this Spring. The MLive story states that those hired in will make $15 an hour, plus it acknowledges that Amazon received a $4 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, to assist in opening up the new fulfillment center.

There was a second MLive article that appeared on February 12th, with the focus being on what kind of partnerships the company hopes to create with the opening of the new distribution center in Gaines Township. Amazon says they want to “give back to the community.”

The only partnership the article mentions is a possible partnership with the Kent Intermediate School District. The KISD Superintendent states:

“For example, we could envision having an instant relationship due to the complexity of the distribution center with the automation such as with our Megatronics program. Hopefully, as they get settled we can nurture and develop a partnership for the students we serve and for Amazon.”

Such a statement is rather disturbing, especially coming from the Superintendent of the ISD.

The February 12 MLive article goes on to talk about how Amazon is committed to becoming a sustainable business, by implementing a net zero carbon policy by 2040. Unfortunately, there are no details about how the company plans on achieving these goals. For instance, Amazon distribution centers rely on a massive fleet of vans to deliver the items that people purchase online. These vehicles are all currently gas powered, which means that hundreds of vans from the new Gaines Township facility will be deployed daily, powered by fossil fuels, thus creating more pollution.

What the MLive articles failed to acknowledge were the following:

  • Amazon does not support labor unions, as was reflected in a leaked video that was sent to management without the Amazon corporate system. 
  • Amazon is owned by Jeff Bezos, the richest person on the planet, with an estimated wealth of $126 Billion. He makes approximately $2,489 per second — more than twice what the median US worker makes in a week.
  • The Amazon Web Services’ cloud computing platform is the host for Palantir’s Investigative Case Management (ICM) software. ICM is then used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to manage their caseload and facilitate the tracking down and deportation of undocumented immigrants. Palantir, a data analytics firm, receives taxpayer dollars to provide these algorithms to government agencies, with its ICE contract being worth over $51 million. For its part, Amazon in turn receives $600,000 a month from Palantir. In addition, Amazon’s new home-security company (Ring), works with hundreds of law enforcement agencies and ICE to provide video from the Ring system that can also be used to target the undocumented community. Source: https://mijente.net/2018/10/whos-behind-ice-the-tech-companies-fueling-deportations/

Amazon will being paying low wages to the 1,000 new employees at the Gaines Township distribution center, even though the owner of Amazon (Jeff Bezos) will make more in one second than what these new Amazon employees will make in a week. Plus, Amazon is profiting from the oppression of undocumented immigrants that ICE is targeting, through the government’s partnership with Palantir and Amazon. And we are supposed to be excited, even grateful, that Amazon is opening this new distribution center?

Betsy DeVos Watch: 2021 Education Budget proposal will do for public education what Citizen’s United did for the electoral process

February 12, 2020

On Monday, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, posted a a press release about President Trump’s proposed education budget. DeVos refers to the budget proposal as. “a transformative, student-first budget.” 

The press release goes on to say:

“This budget proposal is about one thing—putting students and their needs above all else,” said Secretary DeVos. “That starts with creating Education Freedom Scholarships and helping 1 million more students find the best educational fit for them. We know education freedom helps students succeed, and it’s long past time for Congress to act to give students and their families more choices and more control.”

Once again, Betsy DeVos loves to claim that the Department of Education is all about “putting students and their needs above all else.” She supports this claim by suggesting that Congress pass the Education Freedom Scholarships bill, which essentially allows people and corporations to donate to a designated scholarship granting organization (SGO) and be reimbursed in the form of a tax credit. With the DeVos plan, states would designate the eligible SGOs, but the federal government would fund the tax credit reimbursement, up to $5 billion total. Once again, public money (in the form of tax credits) would be used to support Charter and Private school systems.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the proposed education budget would consolidate, “nearly all existing K-12 formula and competitive grant programs into one block grant to States, called the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) Block Grant.”

This means that programs like Migrant Education, Neglected and Delinquent Education, English Language Acquisition, Education for Homeless Children, Rural Education, Native Hawaiian Education, Alaska Native Education, Arts in Education and a whole list of programs have NO money allocated to them in the 2021 Education Budget. Instead, States and local school districts would have complete control over how the ESED Block Grants would be spent, which means that States and local school districts would have the power to channel funding to the projects they support, which many NOT include funding for some of the most vulnerable students in the country. For a full list of the programs impact in the proposed consolidation, click here. Notice that in the 2021 Budget Request there are no funds that are earmarked for these programs.

At the end of the press release, DeVos includes comments from 10 supporters of the proposed education budget. Some of those included are politicians, while others are CEO’s of organizations that embrace the Neo-Liberal Education model such as Project Lead the Way and the National Skills Coalition.

Interesting to note that there are already numerous entities that are speaking out against the Trump/DeVos proposed Education Budget. The Council for Opportunity in Education says that the proposed budget would slash overall funding for the TRIO programs by 13% or $140 million. 

Americans for the Arts wrote a critique of the proposed Education Budget and is calling on Congress to not only reject this misdirected budget request, but further increase funding for these important cultural agencies. 

The American Library Association said:

The White House proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) again dismisses the value of America’s 120,000 academic, public, school and special libraries. The administration’s new budget not only brushes aside IMLS, it decreases funding for other library-eligible education programs.

Even the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an entity which has benefited from the Neo-Liberal Education Model, came out against the proposed Education Budget with this comment: 

“President Trump has consistently said that school choice is a priority for his administration, but this budget, if enacted, would leave families in need with fewer school options. The education vision put forward by this budget is chilling. It would provide—through the proposed ‘Education Freedom Scholarships’ tax credit—extra federal financial help for families to access private schools, while withdrawing support for public school choice for our most vulnerable families by doing away with the Charter Schools Program (CSP).

We must not be fooled by Betsy DeVos’s claim that the budget is all about empowering students and parents. The proposed Education Budget for 2021, will continue to push the Neo-Liberal Education model, especially if Congress passes the Education Freedom Scholarship bill that will do for education what Citizens United did for the electoral process.

How to Win Driver’s Licenses for All in Michigan

February 11, 2020

As we reported, last fall legislation was introduced in the Michigan House and the Senate to allow those who are undocumented to obtain a Driver’s License in Michigan. (Senate Bills 631 & 632 and House Bills 5192 & 5193)

The fact that this legislation was introduced was the result of the immigrant-led mobilization to force the issue in the larger community and within the realm of electoral politics.

Across the state of Michigan, the push to win Driver’s Licenses for All is being led by Cosecha Michigan, the immigrant-led movement that has made this a central issue for the past two years. This movement has been gaining momentum in Michigan and believes that this campaign can be won. Those involved in the work to get Driver’s Licenses for All in Michigan believe this because:

  • They believe in the power of social movements
  • Several states have passed Driver’s Licenses for All recently, which were campaigns led by the immigrant community
  • Obtaining Driver’s Licenses for All is what the undocumented community wants right now!

This campaign still has lots of work to do in Michigan and there are a variety of approaches being taken by different components of the larger movement. Here are things that people can do right now to be part of winning Driver’s Licenses for All in Michigan:

  1. Attend meetings being hosted by Movimiento Cosecha GR to learn about what work that the immigrant community and allies can do. Go to their Facebook page to find dates and times for meetings https://www.facebook.com/cosechagr.
  2. Work to get your faith community to endorse the campaign
  3. Work to get your city or county commission to endorse the campaign
  4. If you own a business, you can publicly display that you support the Driver’s Licenses for All campaign
  5. Find out how to participate in the upcoming May 1st activities, again by contacting Movimiento Cosecha GR https://www.facebook.com/cosechagr.
  6. For Allies, attend a Crowd Safety Training, which is a direct way to support the immigrant community when they do public actions. The next Crowd Safety Training is Wednesday, February 26th. https://www.facebook.com/events/169899957641176/
  7. Contact members of the House Transportation Committee – Please contact each and ask them to give the Drive SAFE bills a public hearing (House Bills 5192 and 5193).

Jack O’Malley (R) Committee Chair, 101st District, Phone: (517) 373-0825, 

Email: JackOMalley@house.mi.gov

Gary Eisen (R) Majority Vice-Chair, 81st District, Phone: (517) 373-1790, 

Email: GaryEisen@house.mi.gov

Triston Cole (R), 105th District, Phone: 517-373-0829 Toll Free: 855-DIST-105, 

Email: TristonCole@house.mi.gov

Jason Sheppard (R), 56th District, Phone: (517) 373-2617, 

Email: JasonSheppard@house.mi.gov

Julie Alexander (R), 64th District, Phone: (517) 373-1795, 

Email: JulieAlexander@house.mi.gov

Joseph Bellino (R), 17th District, Phone: (517) 373-1530, 

Email: JosephBellino@house.mi.gov

Gary Howell (R), 82nd District, Phone: 517-373-1800, 

Email: GaryHowell@house.mi.gov

Lynn Afendoulis (R), 73rd District, Phone: (517) 373-0218, 

Email: LynnAfendoulis@house.mi.gov

Tim Sneller (D) Minority Vice-Chair, 50th District, Phone: (517) 373-3906, Toll-Free: (844) SNE-LLER, 

Email: TimSneller@house.mi.gov

Cara Clemente (D), 14th District, Phone: (517) 373-0140, 

Email: CaraClemente@house.mi.gov

Tenisha Yancey (D), 1st District, Phone: (517) 373-0154 Toll-Free (888) 254-5291, 

Email: tenishayancey@house.mi.gov

Jim Haadsma (D), 62nd District, Phone: (517) 373-0555, 

Email: JimHaadsma@house.mi.gov

Nate Shannon (D), 25th District, Phone: (517) 373-2275,

Email: NateShannon@house.mi.gov

Together we can win Driver;s Licenses for All! Hasta La Huelga!