Skip to content

Michigan Senator Gary Peters votes to approve $1.15 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia

September 22, 2016

Yesterday, the US Senate voted down a proposed amendment that would have blocked the proposed sale of weapons to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by a vote of 71 to 27. Most Democrats, including Michigan Senator Gary Peters, voted in favor of the bill that would give an additional $1.15 billion in weapons to that Middle Eastern country.27649320274_40c75cd33b_z

Robert Naiman, writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, makes it clear why sending more US weapons in a bad idea. Naiman gives several reasons, but the primary reason right now is to make it difficult for Saudi Arabia to continue its war on Yemen. 

This is the same assessment that Majorie Cohan has on US weapons sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Cohen states, “Saudi Arabia has engaged in war crimes, and the United States is aiding and abetting them by providing the Saudis with military assistance. In September 2015, Saudi aircraft killed 135 wedding celebrants in Yemen. The airstrikes have killed 2,800 civilians, including 500 children. Human Rights Watch charges that these bombings “have indiscriminately killed and injured civilians.”

Longtime anti-war activist Medea Benjamin just published a book entitled, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection. In a review of her book, David Swanson states: The United States keeps rushing more weapons to Saudi Arabia as it uses them — with help from the U.S. military — to bomb houses, hospitals, and schools in Yemen, killing civilians by the thousands and non-civilians by the thousands, including with the use of cluster bombs. 51bf7phvkol-_sx356_bo1204203200_

Senator Peters does not have strong financial ties to the US weapons industry, but he is a major recipient of pro-Israeli money, like his predecessor Senator Carl Levin. This is relevant since the relationship between Israeli and Saudi Arabia continues to mature, which is another major reason these two countries are the top recipients of US military aid.

On can not emphasize enough the relationship between the role of Saudi Arabia and Israel as it relates to longterm US policy goals in the Middle East. One recent example is the Israeli-Saudi Red Sea deal, as reported by Middle East Monitor.

Senator Peters, as recently as last week, affirmed his continued support for Israel in a Press Release from September 14, that supports the recent US agreement to increase US military aid to Israel. The Press Release states: “The agreement will increase security assistance to Israel from $3.1 billion to $3.8 billion per year. As the largest military aid package provided to any country in U.S. history, this agreement reflects the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and our unwavering commitment to the Jewish state.”

For the US, maintaining massive military funding to Israel and Saudi Arabia will only escalate violence and conflict in the region and Senator Peters is complicit in that violence.

Who knew the City of Grand Rapids is giving taxpayers money to a DeVos-owned business?

September 20, 2016


We recently discovered that the City of Grand Rapids signed a contract with SG Ecosystem Inc, one of the DeVos-owned entities, in April of 2016.

In the Memorandum of Understanding, the City of Grand Rapids states it gave the DeVos-owned business entity $362,500 on April 1, 2016 and will will give an additional $181,250 on October 1, 2016 and another $181,250 on January 1, 2017. This means that by March of 2017, the City of Grand Rapids will have given $725,000 of taxpayer money to the DeVos-owned entity known as SG Ecosystem Inc.

SG Ecosystem Inc. is an outgrowth of Start Garden, created by Rick DeVos in 2012 as a venture capital funding source for those seeking to start new businesses. Start Garden has evolved, however, with a for-profit fund called Wakestream, the Start Garden Foundation (formerly known as eMerge West Michigan) and SG Ecosystem Inc., which has the contract with the Grand Rapids Smart Zone, run by the city of Grand Rapids.

According to a Start Garden Media Release, they have been working on this project of diverting public money with GVSU and the Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority. Mike Morin, CEO of the new Start Garden Ecosystem, said in the same Media Release, “Start Garden has taken risks on people who want to take risks, and our region has benefitted from it. As the needs and demands of entrepreneurs change, we are adapting the ecosystem’s traditional public and private structures.” Which is just another way of saying, they wanted to divert public money to the private sector.


“We created eMerge to be the non-profit, go-to resource for early-stage entrepreneurship support in West Michigan, and its programming has brought new visibility and awareness to the needs of entrepreneurs within the ecosystem. By combining our forces with Start Garden, we can further realize our efforts that will create a stronger talent system for West Michigan.” This statement is from Mike Jandernoa, chair of eMerge West Michigan, member of Talent 2025’s CEO Leadership Council and a part of the Grand Rapids power structure.screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-2-41-22-pm

This Media Release from Start Garden was sent out by Brian Burch, who has also been the PR guy for ArtPrize (another skilled mechanism for diverting public money to the private sector) and a Holland City Council member who voted against including LGBTQ people in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Many of those who sit on the board of the Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Authority Board are people who have a strong interest in promoting neoliberal capitalism and the diversion of public money into private coffers. Some of these board members are with the Right Place Inc, the Van Andel Institute, the Michigan Small Business Development Center (run by the GVSU Seidman School of Business) and the CEO of the GRAM.

None of this is surprising, however. In fact, it is celebrated as good financial sense even amongst progressives. This is a direct result of economic austerity measures, meant to weaken the state and make it more submissive to the private sector. Reduce public services, privatize public services and divert funds from the public to the private because it is more “efficient.” Those are some of the defining elements of what makes up Neoliberal Capitalism. In this case, brought to you by the DeVos Family. 

DeVos Family has a financial hand in the 10 most contested House races in Michigan

September 14, 2016

As we reported last month, the DeVos Family wants to make sure that the election outcome for Michigan in November works in their favor.

As one of the wealthiest families in Michigan, the DeVos Family knows that contributing so much money to candidates not only increases their chance that their candidates will win, but that their candidates will also pass policy which benefits their interests.

According to the research conducted by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the DeVos Family has contributed funds to eight of the top ten most hotly contested races for the House in Michigan.


Here are the 8 out of the top 10 most hotly contested races for the House in Michigan and how much money the DeVos Family has contributed:

  • 91st House District: Collene Lamonte vs Rep. Holly Hughes – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Hughes
  • 39th House District: Michael Stack vs Rep. Klint Kesto – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Kesto
  • 62nd House District: Jim Haadsma vs Rep. John Bizon – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Bizon
  • 24th House District: Steve Marino vs Dana Camphous – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Marino
  • 71st House District: Rep. Tom Barrett vs Theresa Abed – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Barrett
  • 66th House District: Annie Brown vs Beth Griffin – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Griffin
  • 61st House District: John Fisher vs Rep. Brandt Idem – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Iden
  • 104th House District: Rep. Larry Inman vs Betsy Coffia – DeVos Family has contributed $9,000 to Inman

New GRIID Study looks at Gender Representation in 2015 Films

September 13, 2016


In 2012, we conducted a study looking at gender representation in Hollywood films.  In that study we determined that the overwhelming majority of movies reflected a male-dominant cultural narrative, based, in part, on the actual numbers of leader characters and the content analysis.

Our most recent film study, Normalizing Male Dominance, did not reflect that Hollywood was improving much when it comes to gender representation. To read the entire study, click here.

What follows are some conclusions from the study.

  • Statistically, there was some minor improvement in the number of lead female characters in the 2015 film study compared to the 2012 film study.
  • Despite the increased female lead representation in the 2015 study, there are several films with lead female characters that do not challenge the dominant gender narratives – Sisters, Hot Pursuit, Cinderella, Fifty Shades of Grey, The War Room and The Age of Adaline.
  • There were several films with lead female characters that challenged the male-dominant narrative, such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Sicario. However, even in many of these films, which are disproportionately action oriented or fantasy based, the female lead characters are juxtaposed with dominant male lead characters.
  • There were several films where women’s bodies are hyper-sexualized and objectified, such as Get Hard, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Boy Next Door, Straight Outta Compton, The Wedding Ringer, Hot Pursuit, Vacation, Ted 2 and Sisters.
  • Films with male lead characters rarely challenge the male dominant narrative and present a cookie cutter version of masculinity, such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Creed, San Andreas, Black Mass, Pixels, Sniper, Bridge of Spies, Sicario, The Night Before, Jurassic World, The Kingsman, Taken 3, The Gift, Ted 2, The Maze Runner, Southpaw, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Spectre, Mission Impossible 6, The Gift, Max, Furious 7, The Night Before and the Wedding Ringer.
  • There were films where men are presented as caring, sensitive and empathetic towards others, such as in Selma, The Imitation Game, The Martian, The Intern, McFarland USA and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • As was the case in the previous film study, children’s films and animated films do challenge some gender norms provide more space to explore human in a less stereotypical fashion, with films such as Inside Out and Home.


Showing up after the Standing Rock Action in Grand Rapids: WZZM 13 misses half the story

September 10, 2016


(Updated version)

What happens when a local TV station shows up late to a protest in solidarity with the Standing Rock encampment in North Dakota? Essentially they butchered the story.

About 60 people showed up in solidarity with the Standing Rock encampment on Michigan Street, in front of the offices of G4S, a British company that is provide security for the pipeline project and has been beating native protestors and using dogs to maul them. This was the main reason for the organized protest and why that location was chosen. G4S also has a long history of supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine and profiting from the US prison industrial complex.

However, channel 13 completely omitted this fact in their story, as if people were randomly standing on Michigan Street in an area that wasn’t exactly the most visible.

WZZM 13 showed up as people were leaving after the 2 hour demonstration and was able to talk with someone from the local native american community. They missed the ceremony, the prayers, the drumming and the singing which centered the demonstration in solidarity with Standing Rock. On top of that, they used photos taken by demonstration participants without sourcing the photos or asking permission to use some of them. One participant from the demonstration did send them a few pictures to use.


This is what Gentrification Looks like in Grand Rapids

September 8, 2016

It has begun. The decimation of the first block of homes, right now, today, in the process of gentrifying the Belknap neighborhood by Grand Valley State University and other private developers that are taking advantage of the re-development of the area.

This posting is not designed to provided detailed analysis of the GVSU-led gentrification of the Belknap neighborhood, rather we want to present a series of pictures, accompanied by brief commentary on the harsh realities of what gentrification looks like in this community.

GVSU owns virtually all of the land shown here in this map, which was included in the Memorandum of Understanding. 


Working class families used to live in these houses that are now being bulldozed in the name of progress.


Families have been displaced, uprooted from friends, their children’s school, memories…..


Even if any concession were made, do we have any idea what it must be like to be forced from where you live?


This is just the beginning, just the first block to be leveled. These houses, which do not need to be destroyed, are now fenced off and waiting to be torn down.


These machines are owned by companies making a profit from the decimation of this neighborhood and it’s memories.



But wait, there is new housing being built just around the corner………oh, we’re sorry, it’s not for those working class families who were told to leave.



Housing Development Projects are an assault on working class families

September 5, 2016

One of the strongest indicators of how working class individuals and families are under attack in this community is the recent housing development trend.screen-shot-2016-04-27-at-8-25-06-pm

According to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, Grand Rapids has the highest wealth gap of any community in Michigan, with over one quarter of the community experiencing poverty (27%). 

However, such statistics do not tell the whole story. Indeed, statistics are not enough to tell us that what we are seeing in an all out class war being waged against working families.

In April it was reported that Rise Real Estate received approval for a $53 million dollar housing development project on Grand Ave NE, between Michigan and the 196 highway. 

This project, which will provide 287 Market-rate apartments, means that they will be unaffordable to working class individuals and families. In addition, the project will include a 4 story, 334 car parking garage.

This entire project received substantial tax breaks, to the tune of $8.9 million dollars.

This project has already resulted in the destruction of over a dozen homes (see above graphic of what used to exist before the current project) and the displacement of over a dozen families. What do you say to these families? Families who may fall deeper into poverty by being displaced. Families who may have lost jobs because of the displacement and have had to pull their kids out of the schools that they attended. Do we have any idea of the harm that is caused by such a project?

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 5.39.59 AM

Those defending such a project will no doubt say that 287 housing units far outweighs the number of homes bulldozed in the process. What they are really saying is that those who can afford market rate housing are more important than working class individuals and families.

Such project ultimately promote contempt for working class people and are part of a class war, whether we recognize it or not.