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Another video of GRPD Chief Winstrom dismissing people who challenge policing in Grand Rapids

May 26, 2023

A video interview that MLive did with Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom on March 7th of this year, has been circulating on social media quite a bit during the past week. This is primarily because activists who have been critical of the GRPD have shared it on various social media platforms.

The 2 minutes and 11 second video that MLive posted on March 7th, simply features Chief Winstrom talking about how there are loud people who come to City Commission meetings just to get attention. Winstrom claims that people are at City Commission meetings just to insult Grand Rapids City officials, which is just not the case. Sure, some people might be a bit snarky, but the people who have been coming to City Commission meetings are there because they have an important critique about policing in Grand Rapids and because they have a deep commitment to issues like racial equality and housing justice.

Chief Winstrom goes on to say that he asks those who challenge Grand Rapids City policies, particularly how the GRPD function, if they want to talk. Winstrom says they don’t want to talk they just want to get on TV and that that is their end goal.

In fact, the rest of the video Winstrom essentially wants to convince those who watch this unedited, unfiltered video from MLive, that there is a small minority of people who are unreasonable, just want to get more social media clicks and have no policy suggestions. Clearly Chief Winstrom wants to marginalize these activists who have been calling for the Defunding of the GRPD since June of 2020, just weeks after the uprising in Grand Rapids. But the fact that he says that “these people” have no policy suggestions is ridiculous. Here are just a few things activists have been saying since June of 2020:

  • Calling for a reduction of the GRPD Budget to the 33% of the City’s Budget, as was adopted in the 1995 Grand Rapids City Charter Change.
  • Once the GRPD budget is reduced it should be redirected to issues like housing, health care, education, particularly in communities most impacted by policing, specifically Black and Latinx communities, which was presented in April of 2021.
  • Activists demanded that Federal Funds that came to Kent County NOT be spent on the ShotSpotter technology for the GRPD, a campaign that they won.
  • Activists have denounced the use of the GRPD to harass, intimidate and clear out unhoused encampments, like the encampment that the GRPD shut down at the Heartside Park.
  • Activists have demanded that the City of Grand Rapids stop targeting BIPOC organizers who have been publicly challenging the function of the GRPD in recent years, specifically after Patrick Lyoya was murdered by a GRPD cop, a demand that even a group of local clergy has endorsed.
  • There have also been numerous policy demands made by activists since the GRPD murdered Patrick Lyoya in April of 2022, like Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker should recuse himself from prosecuting the former cop who murdered Patrick Lyoya, since Becker has received campaign contributions from GRPD police union.

Lastly, it is important to note that the demand to Defund the GRPD is also part of a larger, more longterm goal of police abolition, which has been a clear policy demand that the Movement for Black Lives have been calling for since they produced their Defund the Police/Fund our Communities Toolkit. Chief Winstrom fails to point out these facts, since doing so would undermine his efforts to marginalize those who want to hold him and the GRPD accountable.



With their 2024 Budget the City of Grand Rapids once again prioritizes cops, business development and tourism over affordable housing

May 23, 2023

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids City Commission adopted the 2024 City Budget, which according to their 2024 Budget document is a total of $634,553,651. To access budget information, go to this link, which provides the entire budget and a Resident’s Guide to the Budget, which is a much shorter document.

Interestingly enough, the headline that MLive posted on the 2024 City Budget reads, Affordable housing a priority with $644M Grand Rapids budget approval. After reading the headline I quickly read through the article to see how much affordable housing was a priority. The MLive article states: 

One focus area receiving additional money is the Affordable Housing Fund, which helps fund vetted affordable housing developments and homelessness prevention programs in the city. 

Roughly $5 million was allocated to the fund for the next fiscal year, which will boost the grand total to about $11.5 million.

This means that $5 million is being allocated for affordable housing in the 2024 Grand Rapids City Budget, which is the only number that is worth noting regarding the priorities of the 2024 Budget. If one thinks about what $5 Million means in regards to the $644 Million City Budget, then affordable housing is 0.78% of the total 2024 City Budget. Now, I’m not a math genius, but it seems to me that 0.78% of the City’s budget is hardly a priority.

Looking at this graph below which is from the City’s 2024 Resident’s Guide to the Budget, you can see which categories are the real priorities, like policing. 

GRIID pointed out the issue of priorities in an article we posted on May 15th, where we stated:

“During the May 9th Grand Rapids Committee of the Whole meeting, there were numerous 2024 budget items that were excepted without question, all of which centered around business development or business districts. Here is the breakdown for these 2024 budget items, which you can read in detail at this link. Number 7 on the Agenda for the May 9th Committee of the Whole meeting says:

Overview of FY2024 budgets for boards and authorities administered by the Economic Development Department and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. with appropriation requests totaling $45,375,682.”

This means that the $45 Million is going to business districts, for improvements that will benefit the Business Community, along with continuing to emphasize making Grand Rapids a “destination place”, which means they want tourist dollars. Again, compared to only $5 Million for affordable housing, the business districts are significantly more of a priority than the intent to provide safe and quality housing for people who do not make a livable wage.

Lastly, it is worth noting that City Manager Mark Washington was quoted in the MLive article stating, “There’s often more challenges than there is funding. Those are tough choices we have to make and we continue to evaluate both resources as well as issues. I’m looking forward to the continued implementation of the budget.” Like a true politician, Washington laments the lack of funding, but the reality is that it’s not about how much money the City of Grand Rapids uses, it is always about priorities. In the 2024 City Budget, the City of Grand Rapids prioritizes funding for cops and businesses over affordable housing. 

GRIID Interview with Rita Vogel: Proposing a Malcolm X Day in Mason, Michigan, pushback and Institutional Racism

May 21, 2023

On Saturday, GRIID conducted an interview with Mason City Council member, Rita Vogel. In February, Rita proposed that the City of Mason adopt a Malcolm X Day of Observation.

Malcolm X spent two years in Mason, Michigan, after his father was murdered and his mother was send to the Kalamazoo State Hospital. After Malcolm’s father was murdered, his mother struggled with not only making ends meet to support Malcolm and his siblings, but also the trauma of having her husband murdered by White Supremacists. Malcolm and his siblings were place in white family homes and Malcolm ended up with being sent to a white family living in Mason, Michigan.

The day that Rita Vogel proposed that the City of Mason adopt a Malcolm X Day of Observation, it was voted down, with a 5 – 2 vote.  Since then, there has been significant push back against City Council member Rita Vogel, from fellow city officials and from other white people in the city that object to honoring the legacy of Malcolm X, which we discuss in the interview. 

Southpaws Radio Show had been speaking with Rita Vogel, in order to set up an interview with them. The radio show had found a location to host the interview and Press Conference, which then canceled. Southpaws then found a church in Mason that was willing to host the show with Rita, but then backed out of their offer after there was pressure from political forces in the City of Mason. Finally, a person who had a private recording studio in a town adjacent to Mason, offered Southpaws Radio Show an opportunity to use their space and to record the show. 

The interview below was just one of the interviews conducted by Southpaws Radio Show, even through GRIID did the interview with Rita, they conducted an additional interview with a former Mason Public School teacher who was pressured by the school administration to not use Black Lives Matter resources in their classroom. You can listen to that interview, along with the interview with Rita Vogel by going to the Facebook page of Southpaws.

Here is the 25 minutes interview that GRIID conducted with Mason City Council member Rita Vogel.

Why is the Biden Administration pushing to re-open the Palisades Nuclear power plant, when nuclear power is dangerous and unsustainable?

May 18, 2023

Editor’s Note: I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and moved to Michigan the exact same day that the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster happened. The public health consequences and environmental contamination of that disaster has had lasting implications for people and eco-systems in Central Pennsylvania. 

On Monday, MLive ran an article entitled, Granholm ‘hopeful’ about $1B in federal loans to restart Palisades nuclear plant.

The article, primarily provides perspectives on why funding the re-opening of the Palisades nuclear plant would be a good thing. There are a total of five different people who are cited in the article, with the first four being people who are supportive of nuclear power, including U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Nick Culp, a spokesperson for Holtec International, which owns the Palisades plant; Matt Helm, spokesperson for the Michigan Public Service Commission; and Brian Wheeler, a spokesperson for Consumer’s Energy.

The fifth voice to be cited in the article, which was the only critical voice on nuclear power, was Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist for a group called Beyond Nuclear. The Beyond Nuclear perspective was only provided at the end of the article, with an emphasis on nuclear waste, even though there are numerous reasons to oppose nuclear power. For example, GreenPeace provides 6 main arguments against the use of Nuclear power. There is also an excellent article from Beyond Nuclear, which appeared on the site Truthout, which not only refers to the unsustainable nature of nuclear power, but the author makes it clear that even the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is pushing nuclear power, stating: 

Embracing or remaining agnostic on nuclear power may also delay the transition to renewables, as running these power plants requires subsidies, starving renewables of funding. There are now even efforts to include nuclear power in state Renewable Energy Portfolios — designed to increase a state’s percentage of electricity generation from renewable energy sources — which will divert available funds away from renewables and to a financially failing industry that is far from “renewable.” Renewables will reduce more carbon emissions faster and for less cost than other energy choices, especially nuclear. Propping up unreliable, financially failing nuclear power plants impedes progress on climate change and is counter-productive to the goals of the GND (Green New Deal). 

So why have I not seen any pushback from Climate groups or other Environmental non-profits with this new announcement from Energy Secretary Granholm? I looked at all the major environmental organizations across the state and could find nothing on the plans by the Biden Administration to provide $1 Billion for the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. Of course, this should not comes as a surprise, since most of these same statewide environmental groups praised Biden’s nomination of Granholm to be the Energy Secretary. GRIID was critical of this choice back in December of 2020, where we provided reasons why Granholm did not have a great track record on major ecological issues while Governor of Michigan. We wrote:

  • As Governor, Granholm worked with the Obama administration on the bailout of the auto industry. This led to forcing auto workers to accept further cuts to benefits and wages, but it also meant that the fossil fuel-dependent auto industry would get public money to continue to produce gas guzzling vehicles, thus normalizing fossil fuel consumption.
  • Granholm was the Governor in Michigan during the Enbridge Kalamazoo River oil crimes. Granholm was critical of the clean up efforts by Granholm, but there was NO call by the Granholm administration to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 in Michigan. Not calling for a shut down of Line 5 after the disastrous oil crime in the Kalamazoo River basin should give us all reason to not blindly celebrate the Biden nomination of Granholm.
  • While some eco-groups are claiming that Granholm opposed the Keystone XL an the Dakota Access pipelines, I am unaware of her actual participation in resisting these pipelines and actively supporting the indigenous-led resistance that continues to this day.

We should also push back against the argument that closing nuclear power plants would necessarily mean bringing on more fossil fuels. For example, New York State is on target to meet its 100 percent zero carbon by 2040 climate goals, despite closing its Indian Point 2 and 3 reactors in 2020 and 2021. This is due to political foresight and planning which saw New York enact “ambitious climate and clean energy legislation” in 2019, which will achieve these goals regardless of a nuclear shutdown, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

DeVos funded Senator Tuberville, White Nationalism and the history of the US Military

May 17, 2023

Senator Tommy Tuberville has been in the news in the past week, for comments he made about White Nationalists in the US Military. 

In an interview that aired on NPR member station WBHM in Alabama, here is the exchange between Senator Tuberville and Richard Banks, who is with WBHM. 

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE: We are losing in the military so fast our readiness in terms of recruitment. And why? I’ll tell you why: because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying, “We need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t — don’t believe in our agenda, as the Joe Biden agenda.” They’re destroying it. 

RICHARD BANKS: You mentioned the Biden administration trying to prevent white nationalists from being in the military. Do you believe they should allow white nationalists in the military?

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.

Tuberville, you might recall, made another outlandish comment just after he was elected in November of 2020, when he said: “I tell people, my Dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of Socialism.” Tuberville made this comment during his acceptance speech, when he won the Senatorial seat in Alabama. At the time, GRIID wrote about Tuberville’s lack of understanding about history, but also that he received substantial support from the DeVos family during his 2020 election bid. Here is part of what we wrote:

The DeVos cartel contributed nearly $1 million to the Republican Senate Leadership Fund, which contributed money to several key GOP Senate candidates, like Tommy Tuberville in Alabama. Tuberville, the former Auburn football coach, also received $14,000 in campaign contributions from individual members of the DeVos cartel.

A distorted view of US Military History

Now, it is important to examine the comments of Senator Tuberville, specifically about White Nationalists in the US Military. According to a 2022 article in The Guardian: One in five applicants to the white supremacist group Patriot Front claimed to hold current or former ties to the US military, according to leaked documents published and reviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and alternative media collective Unicorn Riot. 

White Nationalists groups in the US have been know to join the US military as a way to recruit people to their cause and to promote White Supremacy. Hell, even an October 2020 report from the Pentagon acknowledges that White Nationals and White Supremacists have infiltrated the US Military. According to one source on the Pentagon’s report:

The Pentagon report said U.S. military personnel and veterans are “highly prized” recruits for supremacist groups, and leaders of those groups try to join the military themselves and get those already in their groups to enlist. Their goal is to obtain weapons and skills and to try to borrow the military’s bravado and cachet, the authors suggested.

Therefore, Tuberville’s comments above are either a reflection of his failure to acknowledge even the Pentagon’s assertion about White Nationalists or the Senator from Alabama embraces White Nationalism and White Supremacy. My guess is that it is a bit of both.

The US Military and White Supremacy

However, I have a fundamental problem with how this issue is being discussed. Yes, it seems clear that White Nationalists are encouraging their members to join the US military, to learn skills, and to recruit new members. But, if we think about White Nationalism and White Supremacy as systems and not as what individuals embrace, then we might have a different understanding of what the function of the US Military is.

Long time educator and activist, Elizabeth Martinez, who has been part of the Challenging White Supremacy Workshops over the years, provides us with this definition of White Supremacy.

With this definition, I would argue that the US Military, since it was founded, has been about the business of oppressing and exploiting other nations, beginning with Native Nations, for the purpose of defending a system of wealth, power and privilege. 

Look at the excellent chronological list of US military interventions that Professor Zoltan Grossman has put together, then tell me that these interventions overwhelmingly meet the definition of White Supremacy from Elizabeth Martinez.

The US Military has always been about expanding US territory, expanding access to resources for US-based Capitalists and in most cases intervening in non-White dominated countries. While I agree it is important to discuss and investigate White Nationalist infiltration of the US Military, we need to have an honest conversation about how the US Military has been used as a mechanism to conquer and amass wealth by those who benefit from a system of White Supremacy.

Billionaires spent more money in the 2022 Elections than in any previous campaign cycle, with the DeVos family leading the way in Michigan

May 16, 2023

According to a new report from Americans for Tax Fairness, US Billionaires spent over $1 Billion in the 2022 Midterm Elections, which is the most the Billionaire class has ever spent during any election cycle.

In the introduction to this new report, it states: 

Billionaires have plenty of money with which to try to buy elections, their net worth increased by 58% to a staggering $4.7 trillion during the roughly three years of the pandemic alone. The failure of America’s tax system to fairly tax the income and wealth of billionaires leaves the with lots of excess cash to spend on candidates and causes. Meanwhile, the breakdown of campaign-finance controls since the Supreme Court’s notorious Citizens United decision in 2010 has made it easy for tycoons to translate their economic clout into political power.

Billionaires in Michigan also contributed significantly to this increase in campaign funding by Billionaires, with Dan Gilbert, the Stryker family, and Hank & Doug Meijer among those who influenced the 2022 Elections. However, of all the members of the Billionaire Class in Michigan, the DeVos family contributed the most in the 2022 Midterm Elections. 

As we documented in November of 2022, the DeVos family spent $12,304,750 to influence electoral outcomes, and that was just in Michigan. The DeVos family has also contributed millions to political candidates in other states, which you can research at Lastly, there is Dark Money contributions that the DeVos family has made, but are difficult to track since many of these Dark Money groups do not reveal who their contributors are. For more on Dark Money groups, go here

The Americans for Tac Fairness report concludes by saying:

We must end the vicious cycle of the ultra-wealthy using their vast fortunes to exploit a broken campaign finance system to support candidates who will cut their taxes, allowing them to amass even greater wealth which they can use to continue the process. When billionaires throw huge sums of money into elections, they shape the debate to their liking and in the process distort what limited form of democracy that exists in the US. 

Of course, like all necessary changes, this will have to happen from the bottom up, since neither the Republican or Democratic Parties are interested in limiting the role that the Billionaire Class plays in Electoral Politics or Public Policy.

Funding priorities for the City of Grand Rapids: Business Districts are a priority, Affordable Housing not so much

May 15, 2023

For years now, there has been a growing demand from the public to get the City of Grand Rapids to do more around the issue of housing, particularly affordable housing.

This push from the public has happened in part because of the push back against the gentrification of numerous neighborhoods throughout Grand Rapids. However, the demands around housing have also come as a result of the increased number of those who are unhoused, and how the City of Grand Rapids has in many ways criminalized those who are unhoused. Lastly, the so-called housing market in this city has seen the cost of housing, whether it is the cost of buying a home or the cost of rent, increase at such a pace that is staggering.

Therefore, push back on all three fronts – resistance to gentrification, how the unhoused are treated, and the increase in housing/rental costs – has pushed the City of Grand Rapids to craft some newer policies around housing, along with a new Affordable Housing Fund that was created in the Fall of 2021. 

The Affordable Housing Fund has set aside $5 Million to fund affordable housing and homelessness prevention projects in the city, according to an MLive story that was posted earlier this year. The city’s relatively new Affordable Housing Fund Board is seeking applications from organizations that could use a share of $5 million in federal stimulus dollars to complete that work.

One could certainly say that for the City of Grand Rapids to tackle the issue of Affordable Housing, setting aside $5 Million, is a victory for those who have been pushing for these demands over the past decade. However, in the big scheme of things, $5 Million dollars isn’t a great deal of money, especially considering the size of the annual City Budget, which for the 2023 fiscal year was $597,859,508. This means that with a City budget just shy of $600 Million, setting aside $5 Million for Affordable Housing seems rather small.

In looking at a comparison to the $5 Million for the Affordable Housing Fund and put that next to budget allocations for business development, the amount for the Affordable Housing Fund is almost an embarrassment. 

During the May 9th Grand Rapids Committee of the Whole meeting, there were numerous 2024 budget items that were excepted without question, all of which centered around business development or business districts. Here is the breakdown for these 2024 budget items, which you can read in detail at this link. Number 7 on the Agenda for the May 9th Committee of the Whole meeting says:

Overview of FY2024 budgets for boards and authorities administered by the Economic Development Department and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. with appropriation requests totaling $45,375,682. 

Here is the breakdown of that $45,375,682: 

  • City of Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority – $22,829,602 
  • City of Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority – $15,382,500 
  • City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Corporation – $120,201 
  • City of Grand Rapids Michigan Street Corridor Improvement Authority – $505,000 
  • City of Grand Rapids Monroe North Tax Increment Finance Authority – $875,124 
  • City of Grand Rapids North Quarter Corridor Improvement Authority – $155,000 
  • City of Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority – $2,746,522 City of Grand Rapids South Division- Grandville Corridor Improvement Authority – $384,000 
  • City of Grand Rapids Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority – $750,432 
  • City of Grand Rapids Uptown Business Improvement District – $122,840 
  • City of Grand Rapids Uptown Corridor Improvement Authority – $534,461 
  • City of Grand Rapids West Side Corridor Improvement Authority – $970,000 

This is a great deal of money that is fundamentally going to subsidize economic development, business districts, etc. So, why is the City of Grand Rapids willing to provide $45 Million and change for business districts, yet only $5 Million for Affordable Housing? 

Another way of framing the issue could be, it is the responsibility of local government to give priority to individuals and families that are subjected to poverty as opposed to those involved in Capitalist enterprises? I always thought that Capitalists believed in competition and that the free market should not be regulated by the government. Why do taxpayers have to foot the bill, by paying out more than $45 Million for business districts and other economic development project in the City? And we don’t we get to vote on these matters? 

My conclusion is that the the City of Grand Rapids is only recently involved in the business of Affordable Housing – primarily because of public pressure – whereas, the City doesn’t think twice on being about the business of business development. As it is with most budgetary matters in government, it is not a question of there not being enough money to fund projects, it is always about priorities, and right now the City of Grand Rapids prioritizes funding business districts and tourism for downtown Grand Rapids over Affordable Housing.  

City of Grand Rapids gives permission for pro-US Military group to use Ah Nab Awen Park for an event that will land a US Military UH 72 Lakota helicopter

May 15, 2023

In the Tuesday, May 9th Committee of the Whole Agenda packet for the Grand Rapids City Commission, there is a list of upcoming special events that need approval by the City.

One of the events that was approved by the City of Grand Rapids reads:

Major Aime Kemppainen of Armed Forces Thanksgiving is requesting permission for a UH 72 Lakota helicopter to land in Ah-Nab-Awen Park on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 7:00 AM and depart at 12:00 PM as part of their annual event. GRPD and the Parks Department would approve this event.

So, let me get this straight. The City of Grand Rapids has approved an event that includes the landing of a US Military helicopter named after a Native Nation (Lakota), that will land at a park with an Indigenous name, on land that was stolen from Indigenous people, in order to teach young people about the contributions US Military personnel have made – even though the US Military killed and forcibly removed countless Indigenous people, specifically in the 19th Century,

According to the group Armed Forces Thanksgiving:

The Armed Forces Thanksgiving event was created in 2014 by a group of Grand Rapids businessmen with the objective of raising awareness and dialogue on the contributions our military personnel have made – and continue to make – on behalf of their families, friends, and country. The annual event provides a vehicle for our community, from teens to adults, to understand, honor, and express thanks for the service of those who have served or are serving in our Armed Forces.

Unless I am mistaken, there are already numerous holidays dedicated to honoring people who were in the US military, such as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, arguably the 4th of July, and the now 9/11 commemorations, which also include US military personnel. There there are the countless ways that US military personnel and US militarism are inserted into the dominant culture, such as at sporting events and parades. 

Then there is the issue of US Militarism and Indigenous people. The US military has long referred to enemy areas as “Indian Country”, and they often refer to US military campaigns using Indigenous names, such as the US military campaign to hunt down Osama bin Laden, which was called Operation Geronimo. Then, there are the literally more than two dozen US Military aircraft that use Indigenous names. And of course, the US Military often claims as the primary argument for including Indigenous names for US Military equipment as a sign of “respect” and as a way to “honor Native Americans.” These claims are hollow and meaningless, especially since the primary relationship that the US Military has had with Indigenous people and Indigenous nations has been to kill Indigenous people, to displace them, to conquer them, with the stated goal of US territorial expansion. This has essentially been the relationship that the US Military has had with Indigenous people since the colonies became the United States of America. 

It’s bad enough that the group Armed Forces Thanksgiving has organized this event, but it is even more frustrating and insulting that the City of Grand Rapids has approved this event. Do those at the City of Grand Rapids not see how offensive and insulting this event is to Indigenous sovereignty? Do they not see how this event on May 19th normalizes Settler Colonialism and erases the legacy of conquest by the US Military of Indigenous peoples?

Michigan Democratic Representatives at opposite ends of the political spectrum over Israel/Palestine

May 11, 2023

A few days ago, Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib re-introduced a resolution calling on Congress to recognize “the ongoing Nakba and Palestinian refugees rights.”

The resolution introduced by Tlaib begins by saying:

Whereas May 15, 2023, is the 75th commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, meaning ‘‘catastrophe’’ in English, a term which refers to Israel’s uprooting, dispossession, and exile of the Palestinian people from their homeland, and Israeli politicians are increasingly threatening Palestinians with a second Nakba today;

Three paragraph’s later the resolution from the Michigan Representative goes in to say: 

Whereas, during the Nakba, Israel forcibly exiled or caused to flee for their lives under duress of military campaigns, which frequently included massacres and other atrocities committed against civilians, at least 750,000 Palestinians (approximately 75 percent of the indigenous population that had lived in areas that became Israel), who became refugees; 

At the other end of the spectrum, newly elected Rep. Hillary Scholten has made no comments about the resolution proposed by Representative Rashida Tlaib, but she did make a Facebook post on April 25th, which read: 

This week marks Israel’s 75th birthday. Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut! #Israel75

Now, for those who are familiar with the founding of the State of Israel, you cannot separate their founding with the massacres and the displacement of thousands of Palestinians, which is exactly what the Nakba commemorates. The fact that Rep. Scholten said nothing about this in her April 25th Facebook post nor the resolution proposal by Rep. Tlaib is instructive.

Now some may argue that there is no point in pursuing a resolution calling on Congress to recognize “the ongoing Nakba and Palestinian refugees rights,” as Rep. Tlaib has done, especially since the Israel Lobby is so powerful in the US. (See, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt) However, the idea of not pursuing something because there is significant opposition is cowardly. Rep. Tlaib faced down a Pro-Israel PAC in the 2022 Election, but was still able to win because she is committed to challenging not only the Israel Lobby, but the longstanding commitment of the US government to fund billions of dollars of military aid to Israel on an annual basis since the mid-1970s.

Michigan has one of the largest Arab American populations in the country, so it is not only out of a sense of justice that Rep. Tlaib speaks about against US support of Israel and in solidarity with Palestinians, but also because her district has a sizable Palestinian diaspora that she represents.

The Israel/Palestine issue has long plagued the Democratic Party. The Democrats Party needs to get behind the international movement to support Palestinian rights, and supporting Rep. Tlaib’s resolution is a good first step for Rep. Scholten to take, along with her Michigan colleagues. Taking this kind of a stand would make a strong statement to the Democratic National Committee, who for too long has been complicit in Israel’s violation of International Law. 

Private Jet users, like the DeVos family, create more pollution than people traveling on commercial flights: Reason #31 for why I have nothing but contempt for the DeVoses

May 10, 2023

The urgency around trying to work towards a more just and sustainable world for all life is no simple or easy matter. However, there are some fundamental truths that we have to come to terms with, like the fact that the wealthiest nations and the richest people on the planet cause a great deal more harm than the majority of the world’s population.

For instance, in a November 2022 report from Oxfam entitled, Carbon Billionaires: The investment emissions of the world’s richest people, states: 

The investments of just 125 billionaires emit 393 million tonnes of CO2e each year – the equivalent of France – at an individual annual average that is a million times higher than someone in the bottom 90 percent of humanity.

Just last week, the Institute for Policy Studies released a new study entitled, High Flyers 2023: How the Ultra-Rich Private Jet travel costs the rest of us and burns up the planet. Here are just a few of the major findings in that report:

  • Private jets emit at least 10 times more pollutants than commercial planes per passenger.
  • Thousands of municipal airports in the U.S. are funded by the public, but many primarily serve private and corporate jets.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, private jet use has increased by about a fifth and private jet emissions have increased more than 23 percent, according to a recent study.

The DeVos Family and their fleet of jets

It is always difficult to find out details about the wealth of the DeVos family, primarily because they don’t believe in full transparency and because they have diversified their wealth and assets in such a way as to make it difficult to track.

There was an interesting article from Business Insider in 2018, with a headline that read, Education secretary Betsy DeVos owns a fleet of 12 private jets and 4 helicopters. In that article it states: 

According to Forbes, the DeVos family owns a fleet of 12 private jets — 1 Boeing Business Jet, 5 Gulfstream G550’s, 1 Gulfstream G450, 2 Bombardier Challenger 350’s, 3 Cessna Citation CJ4’s — and four helicopters. 

We also know that while she was the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos used her own private jets to travel as Education Secretary, rather than using commercial planes.

Then there is the fact that the global corporation that Rich DeVos founded with Jay Van Andel, the Amway Corporation, also has a fleet of private jets and other planes, with their own hangar at the Kent County Airport. 

The Amway corporate jets get even more use than the private jets owned by the DeVos family, primarily because the Amway jets are used by more people, particularly the people who are near the top of earners in their notorious pyramid scheme. In addition, the Amway Corporation has partnered with other commercial airline companies to offer exclusive trips to Amway distributors for Amway conventions. One example was the partnership with the Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, which transported over 6,500 distributors and company representatives to Dubai.

Then there is the Charter School scheme that Dick DeVos runs, the West Michigan Aviation Academy. The West Michigan Aviation Academy, located at the Kent County Airport, is a school designed to create more pilots, but it also encourages more private jet/plane ownership and use. In the past, Dick DeVos has complained about his Charter School not getting enough public funding.

Therefore, on top of the fact that the DeVos family:

  • Makes massive political contributions to GOP candidates/politicians, which adopt policies that do tremendous harm to working class families, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and BIPOC people in general;
  • Uses their foundations to funnel millions to far right groups like Focus on the Family or think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute or the Mackinac Center for Public Policy;

The DeVos family and the Amway Corporation – just on the matter of air travel – emit at least 10 times more pollutants than anyone else who books a flight from the Kent County Airport. Lastly, besides travel for pleasure, the DeVos family uses their private jets to travel to places to meet with other disgustingly rich people to figure out new ways to expand their wealth and to exploit and oppress more of the world’s population, while creating more pollution and perpetuating Climate Change. Reason #31 for why we should have nothing but contempt for the most powerful family in West Michigan, the DeVos family.