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Preview: Michigan Radio: Jack Lessenberry: Jack's Take Podcast

Jack Lessenberry

Every weekday, Michigan Radio political analyst Jack Lessenberry offers up his perspective on the latest political news in Michigan.

Last Build Date: Sun, 28 May 2017 10:41:57 +0000


Memorial Day: Marking JFK's 100th birthday in a changed nation

Fri, 26 May 2017 16:09:47 +0000

The other night I had dinner with former State Senator John Kelly, who has a law degree and a doctorate and served his country in the JAG, or Judge Advocate General Corps. He told me once about the moment he decided to go into public service. It was the day before his eleventh birthday at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit on Labor Day in 1960, and he was sitting on his father’s shoulders. He reached out for the hand of the big man with the shock of reddish-brown hair. “My initials are JFK!” he said. “Well, then, you’ll go into politics too,” John F. Kennedy told him.

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Drowning in manure

Thu, 25 May 2017 15:21:55 +0000

I want to warn you that today, I’m going to be talking about poop. Specifically, more than 3.3 billion gallons of it a year, all of it produced in Michigan by what are euphemistically called “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” or CAFOs. Many of us call them “Factory Farms” instead. They are places where animals are crowded in what are anything but humane conditions to be fattened as quickly as possible for slaughter, or if they are cows, drained of their milk. But beyond animal cruelty, what I’m concerned about is our drinking water. Three years ago, toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie left the water unsafe to drink for a few days.

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Michigan Republicans are contributing to the state's education crisis

Wed, 24 May 2017 15:40:19 +0000

We have an education crisis in this state; in case you haven’t noticed, Michigan is having trouble recruiting enough teachers, especially good teachers, especially in our larger cities. That’s not surprising. Teaching elementary and high school students is difficult and draining, if done right. You are chained to the academic calendar –no fall vacations or long weekends. Teaching involves a lot of work on nights and weekends.

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Lessenberry on proposed cuts to Great Lakes funding, Ford's new CEO, and ballot recount fees

Wed, 24 May 2017 11:36:47 +0000

The Trump Administration released its proposed federal budget. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would get zero dollars if the plan is approved as is. Over the past seven years, it received $2.2 billion in funding to preserve the Great Lakes. Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss how that cut could affect Michigan residents. They also talk about new Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett, the future of Flint's water source, and a new proposal in the legislature that would increase the charge for statewide ballot recounts .

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Is unrest smoldering in Detroit?

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:39:15 +0000

Twenty years ago, when I was covering Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted suicide crusade, I came to know a retired Detroit policeman named Ray Good, whose wife Janet was a Kevorkian ally. Good was present at his own moment in history, when he was the first police lieutenant on the scene at 12th Street and Clairmount in the wee hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967.

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Remembering Joyce Braithwaite-Brickley

Mon, 22 May 2017 14:05:39 +0000

When we talk about our elected leaders, we usually act as if they did it all by themselves. We only tend to notice their assistants if they start slipping, or show signs of clumsiness. Whatever your politics, the fact that Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway have been so savaged in the press is a clear indication that they, and their boss, are failing to do their jobs.

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How to cut corrections

Fri, 19 May 2017 16:05:38 +0000

Six years ago, the superintendent of a small and struggling school district in Gratiot County wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to Governor Rick Snyder asking that his school be declared a prison.

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Great candidate, not so great name

Wed, 17 May 2017 15:07:13 +0000

I spent an hour the other morning with a newcomer on the political scene, one of the most brilliant and charismatic candidates I’ve ever met. Let’s imagine for a moment that his name is Andy Smith. Make Andy the son of completely legal immigrants who enthusiastically embraced everything American. As a boy, he went to one of the best public high schools in Michigan, where he was the captain of the football, the wrestling and lacrosse teams, and then played lacrosse in college.

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Lessenberry on the prison budget, Detroit housing, and security for Mackinac Bridge Labor Day walk

Wed, 17 May 2017 14:45:32 +0000

A Senate subcommittee has passed a budget cutting the Department of Corrections' budget by $40 million. The department says that would mean cutting jobs and programs to fight recidivism. Both Republicans and Democrats want to see lower prison populations. Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss whether this plan could get bi-partisan support. They also talk about housing troubles in Detroit , heightened security for the annual Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge , and the seemingly earlier than usual start of the 2018 governor's race .

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The pyramid of student loan debt

Tue, 16 May 2017 12:50:58 +0000

What do you think is the biggest category of consumer debt in this nation, apart from home mortgage loans? Car loans? Medical bills? Not even close. It is student loan debt, now nearly $1.5 trillion dollars, and getting bigger by the day. The average undergrad leaves school, degree or no degree, owing $35,000.

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Looking out for our animals

Mon, 15 May 2017 15:34:40 +0000

Tommy Brann, a freshman state representative from Wyoming, a West Michigan town near Grand Rapids, isn’t someone who puts on airs. He’s passionate about public service and proud to be part of the legislature, but still thinks of himself as “Tommy the Restaurant Guy.”

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North country philosopher

Fri, 12 May 2017 15:41:31 +0000

Here’s a little secret about our profession journalists don’t like to admit. To an extent, we are sort of the stenographers of society. We may not accept everything at face value, but we cluster around established institutions to look for stories. We get a lot of them, but we miss things too.

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Does the Constitution protect Planned Parenthood?

Thu, 11 May 2017 16:17:47 +0000

If you listen to the rhetoric about Planned Parenthood from Republican congressmen and legislators, you might think it is the world’s biggest abortion mill. It’s not. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that primarily provides contraception, pregnancy and disease testing, and has long gotten federal and state aid for providing what are essentially public health services.

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Comey firing is deja vu

Wed, 10 May 2017 15:41:13 +0000

Twenty-two years ago, I sat in President Gerald Ford’s home in California for an hour-long interview about his presidency. Twenty-two years before that, he had been nominated, but not yet confirmed as vice president, when the infamous events known as the Saturday Night Massacre took place. That was when Richard Nixon ordered the firing of a special prosecutor assigned to investigate Watergate. The attorney general and his deputy refused, and resigned.

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Lessenberry on State Rep. John Kivela's death, 2018 governor's race, and school improvements

Wed, 10 May 2017 12:51:52 +0000

On May 9, State Representative John Kivela was found dead in a Lansing home from an apparent suicide. The Marquette democrat's death marks the third time in the past year a House member has died . Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss reactions from the Michigan State House. They also talk about the 2018 governor's race, including the announcement by Congressman Dan Kildee that he will not run for governor, new partnership agreements to improve schools in nine districts, and funding troubles surrounding the Macomb County sinkhole .

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Is the governor's race over?

Tue, 09 May 2017 14:09:29 +0000

Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint has decided that he will not, after all, run for the Democratic nomination for governor next year. Sources close to the congressman told me last night that he had been wavering until last week, when House Republicans rammed through a health care bill that few understood and which made Democrats extremely mad. Kildee, who has told me he loves Congress, had an epiphany then that his work was to stay in the House, where he has a safe seat, and fight for what is right for the nation.

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Join Michigan Radio for Issues & Ale–President Trump: A Michigan Report Card

Mon, 08 May 2017 17:46:17 +0000

Issues & Ale–President Trump: A Michigan Report Card Monday, May 22 - 6:30-8:00 PM Celebration Cinema North 2121 Celebration Drive NE Grand Rapids, MI 49525 Host: Jack Lessenberry The first several months of Donald Trump’s presidency have passed, and it’s been eventful so far. Join Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst Jack Lessenberry and a panel of political experts as we take a look at the Trump administration’s plans and actions so far, and the impact they may have on Michigan. Planned panelists include: - TJ Bucholz, Democratic strategist and President & CEO of Vanguard Public Affairs - Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan state director for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign - Cheyna Roth, Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network - Gleaves Whitney, presidential historian and director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University

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Losing an election prepares future winners

Mon, 08 May 2017 14:51:31 +0000

Right after New Year’s Day I attempted to argue that it was too early to be asking voters to start thinking about who they wanted to support and vote for in next year’s elections. After all, we are still recovering from last year’s endless campaign. But it’s clear I was howling into an unstoppable hurricane. Not only do I get daily notifications that this candidate or that is running for the legislature in November, 2018, I already am detecting the first embryonic stirrings among Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren, who are starting to test Presidential waters for 2020.

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Health care hypocrisy

Fri, 05 May 2017 16:48:52 +0000

Unless you spent yesterday in a salt mine, you know that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill radically altering the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t know exactly what’s in this bill, or how it would affect you, you are not alone. Neither did virtually any of the members of congress, all of them Republicans, who voted for this bill, which they are calling the American Health Care Act.

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Mackinac Center's report on licensing shows that I'm a closeted right-winger

Thu, 04 May 2017 14:55:25 +0000

Half a century ago, we were a nation split more along news anchor lines than party lines. Some of us got our news from Walter Cronkite, some from Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Viewers made choices, but not really along party lines. The anchors were supposed to be essentially neutral, which is why it was such a big deal when Cronkite told America that in his opinion, the Vietnam War was a failure.

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