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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: Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:33:47 +0000


So many early campaigns

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 15:33:27 +0000

I've been a journalist for almost forty years, and while I tend to specialize in politics and government, at one time or another I’ve covered everything from nutmeg cultivation in Grenada to reunions of World War I veterans. Along the way, I’ve discovered there are three things people often think they can do without any background whatsoever: Start a magazine, open a restaurant, or run for office. Most people who blindly start magazines or restaurants just end up losing their money.

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Don't underestimate Stabenow, again

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:24:08 +0000

Well, it is still deep winter, even if it doesn’t feel like it. The Super Bowl is over, and the baseball exhibition season hasn’t gotten started. So naturally, the restless minds of those interested in politics are turning to the next election, or make that, elections. State Senator Coleman Young Jr., who is term-limited and will need a new job, has announced he is running for mayor of Detroit.

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Michigan's school closing fiasco

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:19:21 +0000

Well, it’s Friday, and I thought I’d mark the end of the week with a particularly absurd joke. Did you know there is something in Lansing called the School Reform Office which can actually close down failing public schools. Get it? Well, there is, in fact, something named that. And, for the second year in a row, it indicated it was thinking about closing a group of schools statewide, only to have to beat a hasty retreat and say the equivalent of “Ah, just kidding, we really didn’t mean it.”

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Can the governor rise to the occasion?

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 16:03:21 +0000

Nobody can deny that Governor Rick Snyder is an intelligent and hard-working man. He came from very modest circumstances to earn three degrees, including an MBA and a law degree, from the University of Michigan by the time he was 24.

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Those still calling Trump's election "illegitimate" sound like the irrational birthers

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:49:00 +0000

Well, Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope you've gotten far more important greetings from someone close to you. Love is important. But sometimes, you have to learn how and when to let someone, or something go. I’ve finally accepted that Laura Ingalls Wilder is not going to come back from the dead and marry me. And in the same vein, it's time for those who think the last presidential election was stolen to give it up. That may sound like an odd thing to say at this point. But I still hear regularly from listeners who don't think Donald Trump's victory was legitimate, and who want me to devote myself to exposing fraud in the last election. Cindy Ashy is convinced that the voting machines in both Michigan and Wisconsin could be hacked by outside sources, despite what election officials in both states have said. There was a partial recount in Michigan, which didn't show things changing very much, and a full recount in Wisconsin, which ended up slightly increasing Trump’s margin. But she doesn't

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Lessenberry: Billionaires like Mike Ilitch are capitalists, “not Mother Teresa”

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 20:42:36 +0000

Mike Ilitch certainly left his mark on downtown Detroit, beginning with the major renovation of the Fox Theatre in 1988 and continuing to this day with the ongoing construction of Little Caesars Arena for the Red Wings and the Pistons. There are those who found a lot to criticize in the way the Ilitch family acquired downtown property, maintained that property, and financed its arenas. Michigan Radio's senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry joined Stateside to talk about Ilitch's legacy when it comes to the business side of his life and what he did for the city of Detroit.

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The Tale of Two Billionaires

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 15:24:54 +0000

You have to admire many things about Mike Ilitch. The son of Macedonian immigrants, in the classic American success story, failed to become a major league baseball player, but instead became a true player on a much bigger stage. He grew up with essentially nothing. When he died Friday he was worth more than $5 billion, owned a major league hockey and baseball team, a massive national fast food pizza empire, stadiums, theaters, and lots of other stuff.

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Fake news is getting in the way of finding rational solutions to our problems

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 17:15:12 +0000

The Michigan Library Association has asked me to talk to their annual convention about “fake news.” I don’t blame them for being especially concerned about it. I’ve always seen librarians as sort of secular high priests of our culture. They are concerned with assembling and guarding over our storehouses of information. In the pre-internet age, we went to them to find out things and to learn how to find them out ourselves.

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Governor Snyder's budget is sound. The people who will vote on it are not.

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 15:58:35 +0000

Back in a more sincerely religious era, people used to say “Man proposes; God disposes.” But when it comes to state budgets, it’s more a case of “the governor proposes; the legislature disposes.” The governor proposed his budget for the next fiscal year yesterday, and as of now, members of his own party in the Legislature don’t seem to like it very much. Now budgets are not the sexiest things in the world. Nobody goes to a singles bar and says to some attractive person, “you won’t believe what’s in the governor’s budget.” But in reality, there’s nothing sexier than money. I have often been critical of Governor Snyder’s policies, but I have to say this is a remarkably grownup budget. His spending priorities are sound. It assumes a slightly lower rate of growth. The governor, who has now been steeped in the realities of Michigan for six years, wants to increase funding for at-risk students, and spend slightly more on high school than elementary school students. He wants more state

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State Sen. Jim Ananich is a happy warrior

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 17:55:28 +0000

Imagine that you got into politics, won a few local elections, and before you knew it were your party’s leader in the Michigan Senate. That’s how things worked out for State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, a former high school social studies teacher who, at age 39, got that job a little over two years ago.

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Michigan Rep. Brian Banks used his seat as a plea bargaining chip, and justice was denied

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 14:55:17 +0000

It isn’t exactly a secret that a lot of people have lost faith in politicians. Polls show approval of and trust in Congress and the state Legislature has fallen to where it is barely ahead of Athlete’s foot. Men like Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Woods, are a good part of the reason why. Banks has previously been convicted of eight felonies, mostly for things like bad checks and credit card fraud. He has been evicted for nonpayment of rent at least seven times, and has left a long trail of unpaid bills.

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Democracy, dying behind closed records

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 17:40:01 +0000

There are a lot of things that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof doesn’t like. They include unions, especially teachers’ unions. The state’s rule requiring the payment of decent, prevailing wages to workers on state construction jobs. Meekhof is also very much against anything making it easier for people to vote, including making it easier to get absentee ballots.

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Taking a stand in the "Age of Trump"

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 17:26:31 +0000

Sixty-three years ago, the most famous journalist in America broadcast this on national television: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends on evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear of one another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.”

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Eli Broad urges U.S. Senators to reject Betsy DeVos' nomination

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 20:08:21 +0000

I’ve never met Eli Broad , the billionaire Los Angeles philanthropist, though I have interviewed him on the phone. He comes across as a kindly man who cares deeply about education and the arts. I think there would be a lot less resentment of the so-called "one percent" if more of them were like Mr. Broad, who is committed to giving away 75% of his wealth.

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Will Michigan ever see something like a "Citizens' Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission"?

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 17:40:52 +0000

Here are three examples of how messed-up and dysfunctional Michigan government has become. First, last fall the Democrats had a candidate for state representative who had been convicted of eight felonies, charged with three more, and who had cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 thanks to a sexual harassment suit filed against him by an aide.

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Michigan's tax on tampons is unjust. It's time to repeal it.

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 15:15:19 +0000

Tampons and sanitary napkins. I’ve been a journalist for four decades, and during that time have written and broadcast about everything from train wrecks to Marshall Tito. I’ve written about plumbing problems in Russia and filed stories from Paraguay, but don’t think I have ever written a word about tampons. That isn’t because I am squeamish about them.

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National security and the travel ban

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 15:55:00 +0000

Yesterday I was talking to State Senator David Knezek of Dearborn Heights about a tax bill, when I decided to ask him what he thought of the president’s sudden order barring entry to this country from seven Muslim nations. I would normally never ask a first-term state senator to comment on a foreign policy initiative by the president of the United States. But these are not normal times, and Dave Knezek is not just another state senator. He served two tours of duty in Iraq.

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Newspapers are in trouble, and so are we

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 15:59:17 +0000

I’m in Grand Rapids today, at the annual convention of the Michigan Press Association, which represents daily and weekly newspapers throughout the state. It is largely a happy event. Those gathered celebrate and award prizes to some of the best journalism in the state. This year’s top winner was an investigation in which the Detroit News revealed that dirty surgical equipment was being used in operating rooms at a major hospital.

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There is no massive fraud in our elections

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 14:41:49 +0000

Donald Trump is far from the only politician to believe in “alternative facts.” During the 1984 presidential campaign, when I was working for the Detroit News, I somehow ended up interviewing Lyndon LaRouche, who managed to be both zany and sinister at the same time. LaRouche, sometimes a Trotskyite and sometimes a right-winger, alternated between competing as a Democrat and running as an independent, and may be best remembered for his theory that Queen Elizabeth II was the mastermind of a huge drug cartel.

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Below the radar, amazing things are happening in Detroit

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 16:28:31 +0000

I spent lunchtime the other day with a highly educated suburban woman named Amina, who lives in the white-collar suburb of Canton, in the same county but light-years away from Detroit. Her husband is a professor at Lawrence Tech, and she has degrees in both post-childhood development and in education policy with a focus on global studies. Now thirty-six, she’s lived in many places, but was born not far from where she lives now. She’s thoroughly American, but a bit different from many of her neighbors. She has four children, which isn’t that common these days. She also spends much of her time with other kids in a part of Detroit where her neighbors might never go in a million years.

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