MLive’s wrongish piece on redistricting

June 30, 2015 by  
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After the high court ruled the other day that states can change their redistricting through a popular vote, lots of people have talked about doing it here in Michigan. MLive has a piece on it that gets a very important thing wrong. The tenor of the article suggests that to amend the state constitution, that our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger effect would have to pass bills that would then be put on the ballot. That's kind of akin to how the U.S. Constitution is amended, but it is not fully reflective of how amendments to the state constitution can come into existence. Section 2 of Article XII specifically.

But, after 2012, we all knew this anyway. 


Brandon Dillon writes about his evolution on abortion

June 30, 2015 by  
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If you're a dude, Brandon Dillon's op-ed in MLive today is something you should read. If you wanted to get all deep and shit, it's the story of a man who decides to let go.

I join people across the country who are rethinking the abortion issue and seeing the moral and practical reasons for supporting a woman's ability to choose. In recent weeks, Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democratic congressman from Ohio, announced that he has evolved on the issue and now believes it is better to trust women and their families - not politicians and special interest groups - to make decisions about their own lives.

I think this is a very healthy, good way for men to look at this issue. There's some pressure to see this purely through the prism of womens' rights, and while that is necessary and important, it also misses the point that much of what is about abortion is about whether it is proper for society as a whole to make medical and persoal decisions for anyone ... not just women.

Something that gets overlooked, like always, is that people who have option do a better job once they've made a choice. If those options are not available, if they are forced to act for the sake of conformity, they are not as mentally prepared because they haven't been forced to think anything through. I use myself as an example here. I've been involved in one unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock, have one child, and was better prepared for fatherhood for having discussed every option. 


Some people who’ve gone off their nut since Friday

June 29, 2015 by  
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In the final years of his life, George Wallace came around and begged foregiveness from the people tormented by his bigotry. Will the LGBT version do the same?

Agema, a former West Michigan state representative who is a vocal opponent of gay marriage, wrote in a Facebook post Friday, June 26, that it is "truly sad that 5 men and women in black robes can destroy what our nation has understood since it was founded."

"Now the destruction of the family begins. No nation can long survive when it loses its moral compass," Agema said.

Apparently not.

By the way, Goat Killer apparently needs some help with use of capital letters.

"The court's decision to strike down this law is a new affront to the will of the people of Michigan and other states, as well as the Democratic process through which these laws are passed," Agema wrote.

He continued: "Traditional marriage is a key pillar of the Republican Party platform and we stand behind keeping it that way as opposed to the democrat party. As early as 2013 the RNC confirmed the 5 Core Principles of the party as a resolution and part of that resolution was traditional marriage."

It's good that he reminded everyone that he helped make traditional marriage a critical plank in the Republican Party platform. Without it, people might have been lulled into buying into the rightwing nonsense that it's actually the Democratic Party that is full of bigots because Abe Lincoln was a Republican and Robert Byrd was once a member of the KKK. But, will there be any fallout for an RNC committeeman who can't use proper grammar on Facebook? Magic 8-ball says, "Not bloody likely."

Meanwhile, random holy man Stacy Swimp advises people who aren't Stacy Swimp to quit their jobs rather than perform the duties of their office.

“It would be better to lose your job than to lose your soul,” said Minister Stacy Swimp, a Flint-area pastor and founding member of the National Coalition of Black Pastors and Christian Leaders. Swimp also encouraged pastors to join in the boycott to marry same-sex couples. 

Swimp, we can assume, has very safe and secure employment.


Big Ten Football Preview 2015: Three Key Players For Illinois

June 29, 2015 by  
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The offensive line will have to make huge strides for Illinois to take the next step in 2015.

We kick off Illinois week of our Big Ten preview coverage with a look at the guys that will factor the most into success, or lack thereof, for the Illini this season.

Wes Lunt, Junior Quarterback

Lunt played well at times last season and showed that he has the ability to make all of the throws, but poor offensive line play (more on them, later) caused him to run around the pocket scared at times and it really held back his progress.

He will have to figure out a way to deal with it, because it is not going to get better. He needs to make quicker decisions with the football and make better reads at the line of scrimmage.

Geronimo Allison, Senior Wide Receiver

Allison will have a big part in giving Illinois an efficient passing attack. He is a true deep threat that at 6-foot-4 also gives the Illini a great redzone target, as well.

The Offensive Line

Again, I am sure at first glance this looks like a copout, but this entire unit is paramount to the program taking the next step under Tim Beckman. Teddy Karras, Joe Spencer and Austin Schmidt all return and need to be better than average for the team to show a little diversity offensively

How about a little redistricting reform to go along with your same-sex marriages?

June 29, 2015 by  
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Been a rough week to be a conservative. First they lost the Confederate battle flag, then they failed again on Obamacare, then the high court said that the gays can make the foundations of Western Civilization come crashing down. Finally ... this

Opponents of gerrymandering are breathing a sigh of relief today — the Supreme Court has upheld Arizona voters' decision to let an independent commission, rather than their legislature, draw their state's congressional districts.
If I recall, the fact that the Supreme Court was going to rule on this issue was something that was holding back a similar effort in Michigan. That hurdle now cleared, what say we make this a top priority for 2016? And, while we're at it, let's put something before voters that isn't a thinly veiled attempt to tilt the process in favor of Democrats. Let's put something before voters that is party neutral. Doing the other thing, which the Democratic Party seems to have a problem doing, always ends in miserable failure.  

Monday Michigan Recruiting Roundup: Rashan Gary Visit Recap

June 29, 2015 by  
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In this edition, we take a look at how the nation's top prospect felt about his visit to Michigan and a pair of targets that have set decision dates.

It was a fairly slow weekend on the recruiting trail compared to recent weeks, but there were some notable headlines to come out of the last few days.

We will start with Rashan Gary (Paramus, New Jersey), 2016's top prospect, and his visit to Ann Arbor over the weekend. The five-star defensive tackle was on campus with his mother and I was able to confirm with a few sources that the visit was an overwhelming success.

It has long been reported that Gary's mother is going to be a huge factor in the process, as well. By all accounts, she would definitely sign off on Michigan if that is what the decision comes to.

The other thing that Michigan fans will enjoy reading is that it also appears his visit to Ohio State was not a good one and went the opposite way of his trip to Ann Arbor. OSU has not really been a factor to this point anyways, and I do not expect them to be much going forward, barring something crazy happening.

Michigan appears to be the front-runner from the intel that I have gathered, but do not expect his recruitment to end anytime soon. Schools all across the nation will continue to be coming after Gary hard. This is a process that very well could drag all the way until National Signing Day 2016, but we will continue to preach patience here.

Michigan is in a great position to land the second big fish from New Jersey in three cycles, the other being Jabrill Peppers.

Upshur sets a date

Four-star 2016 tight end Naseir Upshur (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) will commit to a school on Aug. 8, according to Rivals.com's Adam Friedman.

Upshur's visit to Ann Arbor last week seems to have been a huge success as well. Some thought he may pull the trigger on Michigan during his visit, which Wolverine247 is reporting actually almost happened. ($)

Aug. 8 is not that far away, but it can be a lifetime on the recruiting trail. Still, it would be a big surprise if Upshur did not commit to Michigan when the time comes.

Hawkins decision coming Friday

Four-star 2016 wide receiver Brad Hawkins (Camden, New Jersey) is reportedly making his college decision this Friday, where the Wolverines are expect to be the school that is chosen.

The other school in the mix for his services is South Carolina.

The 247 Crystal Ball reads 80 percent in favor of Michigan. It is not a science by any means, but usually serves as a way to see which way a recruit is trending. I made my pick for Hawkins to Michigan over the weekend.

NHL Draft Day Two Recap

June 27, 2015 by  
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Four Michigan recruits were selected on day 2 of the NHL draft.

Draft Selections

Brendan Warren: Arizona. Pick 81 (3rd rd).

Of the four players drafted on day two, Brendan Warren was drafted right where he was expected to be picked. The speedy winger was taken with the 20th pick of the third round and 81st overall. 

The Coyotes get a high motor forward with blazing speed and a great work ethic.

Joe Cecconi: Dallas. Pick 133 (5th rd).

Joe Cecconi went off the board to Dallas in the 5th round.

Cecconi is a defensive defenseman who can play high minutes and match up against a team's top line, something he will get started on early at Michigan where openings on the blueline will give him Top-4 minutes from the beginning.

Cooper Marody: Philadelphia. Pick 158 (6th rd).

I had thought Marody would be selected in the 3rd or 4th round. Central Scouting had him at 53, but he fell down into the 6th to the Flyers. They got a deal here.

Marody will fit well in Philadelphia; he's a high motor, high compete level winger with great speed and solid stick skills.

Marody was going to spend another year in Sioux Falls, but after a pair of early departures he will head to Michigan for next season.

Nick Boka: Minnesota. Pick 171 (6th round).

Boka was a player with his stock rising towards the end of the year going from 197 to 117 in the Final CSS Rankings, but Boka slid into the tail end of the 6th round to the Wild.

Boka is a strong two-way defenseman who can handle higher minutes. He skates well and has the vision to carry the puck through the neutral zone.

Like Cecconi, Boka is in line for a major role when he arrives at Michigan.

Deer and rabbits and moles … oh my: Open thread

June 27, 2015 by  
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I think I'm up to five times gay married since yesterday morning. The first was right after the announcement came down. I went outside to see if the sun was turning the color of blood yet, and was strapped down to a portable hammock I purchased last week and forcibly gay married. The fifth happened this morning when I went to the community garden to get some garlic chives for my avocado baked egg. I've also been hetero marriage divorced three times since yesterday, which is weird because I'm a lifelong bachelor. Also, pretty sure I've figured out how it is that Knight Rider got canceled all those years ago.

Quick update from the brewpub garden: Snap peas are coming on, and I'll be sending in more lettuce an arugula today. But, golly Miss Molly if this job ain't turning me against my fellow mammals. Did I mention the snapping turtle? That makes me laugh, but the deer that chewed off the end of a lily I stole from my artist feels like it was done out of sheer spite and moles keep burrowing under all the beds, doing damage for some reason. If we could talk, I would say to them, "Friend mole, please stay out of the beds that have taken me long hours to plant and nuture," but I'm not so sure they'd listen because they probably lack the cognitive ability to comprehend the English language in all its nuances. God damn things.

For the rest of you, the thread ... she is open. 


2015 NHL Draft Coverage: First Round Recap

June 27, 2015 by  
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Zach Werenski and Kyle Connor have been drafted into the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Winnipeg Jets organizations, respectively.

To put it lightly, it was a loud evening full of boos and cheers at the BB&T Center, as one of the best generational talents in years, Connor McDavid, became a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

As I recapped last night via vlog, the draft was absolutely nuts, but Michigan had a stupendous evening and proved a few things in the process.

Zach Werenski - 8th Overall, Columbus Blue Jackets

I love this pick for Columbus. After losing out on the Mike Reilly sweepstakes, the Blue Jackets will get a college defenseman who is starting look like less and less of a college player by the day in terms of maturity, size, and talent.

It's not often that I project my opinions about players in posts (nor is it often that I write in the first person), but the Blue Jackets desperately need defensemen from every single direction, and Werenski is a huge get after Provorov slid off the board at seventh.

What Columbus has here is a defender, who is a tad bit of a project, but can work all areas of the ice and be a serviceable top-four guy. They don't have that currently after trading James Wisniewski and allowing Jack Johnson to be their be-all end-all blue-liner. Jack Johnson just isn't all that great (highly overrated) and isn't going to trend upward anytime soon. With rumors floating that the Blue Jackets would be willing to part with some forward prospects in order to get D, they'll be able to relax a bit now on that front and take another look should the need arise.

Zach goes to a blooming organization, gets at least a Michigan connection (though for how long we shall see) in Johnson, and an opportunity to join a sound organization should he choose to leave Michigan in the immediate future. If not, the Blue Jackets will be even better by the time he joins them further down the road.

Kyle Connor - 17th Overall, Winnipeg Jets

Coincidentally, after randomly picking seats in the stands, the second half of the SB Nation draft crew wound up sitting next to some of Kyle Connor's Extended family. He was extraordinarily close to going to Detroit, his hometown team, but the Jets nabbed him instead:

I'm seriously questioning as to how many full-time Winnipeg scouts live in Ann Arbor, considering that every one of their picks has either done time with the US National Team Development Program or is an active roster player/commit to the University of Michigan: Trouba, Copp, and now Roslovic and Connor to name a few.

Adding Kyle Connor that low in the draft is a home-run for Winnipeg. He's an easy kid to be high on, but he adds to an immensely well-balanced and deep prospect pool. The Jets are that team that really has to rely especially on the draft thanks to its lack of appeal in trades and its small market, apparently turnoffs for players. (Would you voluntarily live in -50 F temperatures to play hockey when you could play in California on a contender or two?)

However, Connor is far from an insurance policy. While appearing on Broome & Henschke in addition to Joe's in-depth preview, he was highlighted as a guy who can do pretty much anything you ask of him. He appears all over the ice, has wonderful hands, and can make plays at any given turn. He'll fit in just fine north of the border, no matter how many relatives disapprove of the snow.

For Northwestern, Two Familiar Demons

June 26, 2015 by  
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Have the demons that led to two 5-7 finishes been exorcized? We break down Northwestern's chances in 2015.

If you spend time listening to Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, he'll often come back to the intangible of 'attitude.' "Sometimes you have to embrace the suck," he said after a particularly poor performance against Iowa, a 48-7 demolition this past November. And, two weeks later, Northwestern was punching well above its weight by giving Notre Dame a kick in the rear on its way out of the Big Ten schedules. It was a great game, one that reminded fans why they had placed hope in Fitzgerald in the first place. Two weeks after that, though, the Wildcats were getting deconstructed by in-state rival Illinois, and failed to earn a bowl game.

Obviously, Northwestern's ceiling is higher with Pat Fitzgerald than it was before he originally made it to Evanston as a player. But the issue with Fitz's teams has been consistency, something he always seems to preach in lunch-pail fashion. But for a man who preaches it so heavily, consistency has not been a calling card of Fitz's regime.

Perhaps it's the lens through which he sees the game: as a game of one-on-one matchups. In a way, it's a forward-thinking approach, and Fitz's offense has gotten a lot of mileage out of putting the ball in an athlete's hands and asking him to beat the first defender. But something has been missing. The Wildcats have been haunted by two ghosts: a group of linemen that has failed at carrying the load, and a roster that lacks the depth they need. Those two shortfalls have led to the team's inconsistency; they have hovered in the background at least as much as unionization, and been much more deadly.

The good news is that, going forward, one of Northwestern's demons is looking like it's fading away. The other ... well, not so much.

Quarterbacks

According to Pat Fitzgerald, the quarterback race is wide open, but that may just be his attempt at motivating his players. Clayton Thorson, a redshirt freshman, will compete against Zack Oliver (who started in Trevor Siemian's absence last year) and Matt Alviti - but make no mistake, this is Thorson's battle to lose. Alviti has thrown four passes in his career for no yards, and run the ball nine times for one yard. Oliver, meanwhile, started and also underwhelmed against Purdue last year, and he has not shown the leadership that Fitzgerald wants from his quarterback. Both Thorson and Alviti have been elected as team leaders for 2015, but Oliver was not.

Even without any college experience, Thorson brings a lot to the table: good athleticism for a 6'4", 210-pound quarterback, plus he throws very well on the run. In his high school film, he's at his best when his first read is open. if there are tight windows, or Thorson is throwing the ball far downfield, bad things can happen. That will only escalate when Thorson debuts against Big Ten competition, though hopefully the redshirt year has helped to slow down the game for him. Fitz will probably try to keep the offense on the simpler side, rolling Thorson one way or the other and running him up the middle to challenge every part of the defense. Against disciplined and athletic defenses, though, Northwestern will struggle.

Running backs

Justin Jackson is a terrific player, a small scrappy engine who gets yards after contact and moves the chains. If the spirit of Ameer Abdullah is still in the Big Ten, Jackson has it.

(Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports)

After Jackson, though, experience is minimal. Warren Long is a better back than his 4.1-yard average would indicate, but he is mistyped in this offense. Long will need to weave through a lot of backfield traffic, and he takes too long to get up to speed. He can lower his shoulder and drive the pile, and he can outrun some people, but the immediate stop-start isn't there.

More likely to stand out is redshirt freshman Auston Anderson, who has more of the stop-and-start that will get him out of bad plays and into positive gains. He's an explosive athlete who gives Northwestern some valuable depth and upside.

Pass catchers

Last year, this was an underrated unit with Kyle Prater leading the way. Now, both Prater and Tony Jones are gone, and the best hope for a game-breaker comes with a healthy return by Christian Jones. Jones, you might remember, tore his ACL right before the 2014 season started, and he's since had injury complications to his knee. Jones caught 54 passes for 668 yards two seasons ago, and he's now a senior hoping for an NFL shot. The 6'3", 225-pound player is a genuine candidate to be drafted - if he can regain his explosiveness.

After that, explosiveness will be hard to come by with this group. Miles Shuler is a genuine game-breaker who hasn't really been used yet, a former four-star with a great catch rate. However, he has just 261 career receiving yards as a senior for some reason. Dan Vitale is a reliable target at superback (which is basically a tight end in Northwestern's system), and he has a good backup in Jayme Taylor. Mike McHugh and Cameron Dickerson made it onto the field last year, but for them to really make a difference, they'll need some real improvement. A couple of young guys - Solomon Vault or Pierre Youngblood-Ary - might steal some reps and give this unit some dimension.

As it stands, though, this group is at least a bigger, more physical unit than most teams in the Big Ten. Between Jones, Vitale, Cam Dickerson, Taylor, and McHugh, Pat Fitzgerald has five guys who will likely play heavy minutes and average 6'3", 220. With screens, sweeps, and outside zone runs, Northwestern should be able to mitigate their offensive line weaknesses and use outside blocks to spring big gains.

Offensive line

I'll keep this part anonymous because there isn't a lot of positive stuff to say. Plus, the line's problems are pretty universal. This is one of the most bland units in the conference. Three regulars have graduated, but none of them were particularly good. The ones who return, also, were average at best. And with the prototypes that Fitz has filled his line with, I'm not sure whether there's a much higher ceiling in 2015.

Fitz likes his linemen to be mobile, with the idea that a mobile unit can attack any part of a defense with numbers at any time. That way, he can also get away with recruiting undersized linemen. The problem is, these guys might be 'mobile,' but they're not athletic or strong. They'll struggle to make a key block in the open field. They don't have the flexibility to use low pad level, so even one-on-one matchups with linebackers are not necessarily a win for the line. It's also easy for defenders to keep the second level clean, so the line rarely springs a big hole for the running back. The biggest weakness, by far, is a lack of strength. Even smaller linemen can carry a big pop, but these guys don't.

(Credit: Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images)

Can they get better? Some more time in the weight room is a must, but they'll also need some time in a yoga room. This is a deeper issue than experience or technique, and it's likely that this will be the weakest link of the team going forward. I like some of their younger prospects, but we'll see how they develop over the next few years.

Defensive line

The defense was strong in 2014, and it should be again. The defensive line is a pretty anonymous bunch that goes two or three deep throughout the game. This is a standard Big Ten unit - strong against the run, not great at rushing the passer, with heavier than normal defensive ends they can throw at the run game. The exception is Ifeadi Odenigbo, a former four-star, 240-pound defensive end who can pin his ears back and pile up sacks. He got 3 sacks as a sophomore reserve last year, ceding a majority of the snaps to Max Chapman and Dean Lowry. But if there's one real candidate to be the Big Ten's next Randy Gregory - who went from anonymous one year to superstar the next - Odenigbo is a good pick.

Greg Kuhar is another potential star, simply one of the better nose tackles the league has to offer. He has ceded a lot of snaps to Xavier Washington, Deonte Gibson, and C.J. Robbins, but Kuhar is one of the more nimble 310-pounders you'll find. He has the strength to bull rush, but also has the technique to shed his man and make a tackle on a passing running back. Both of these guys have gotten lost in a deep rotation, but they have pedigree (both blue-chips) and good play-making.

There may be other reasons why they didn't play more in 2015, but I think it was an emphasis on gap integrity rather than disruption at the line. Fitz and Hankwitz tried to use their defensive line as a way to keep their linebackers free and let others make plays, but I think they should protect the defensive line with more speed (I'll get to that in a minute) and let Kuhar and Odenigbo run free.

Linebackers

Most of last year's snaps are now gone, with Collis Ellis, Chi Chi Ariguzo, and Jimmy Hall moving on. Anthony Walker is back, and he's another on this defense who should soon be a star. But who else will step up? Drew Smith is a speedy, 220-pound SAM in the same mold as Jimmy Hall. But after that, it's a whole bunch of questions.

Joseph Jones had 4.5 tackles last year, mostly on special teams. Jaylen Prater had three. Brett Walsh had two. There's a slew of freshmen, one of whom might step up (Nathan Fox, perhaps?). Still, Fitzgerald and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz might want to think pretty hard about playing a whole lot of nickel formations. In fact, given what they have in the backfield, that would have been a good idea even if they had better depth at linebacker.

Defensive backfield

I like this unit, and they have the potential to be better. Matthew Harris and Nick VanHoose are fast and competitive at cornerback, and Godwin Igwebuike and Traveon Henry are a good duo at safety. Quietly, this is one of the more athletic backfields in the Big Ten, particularly the trio of Harris, VanHoose, and Igwebuike. They're not quite tall enough, not quite as much speed as you'd see in elite backfields, but if there was sounder play from the linebackers, these guys would have made a lot of plays last year.

There's also some athleticism on its way up. Parrker Westphal is a former four-star recruit, and both Kyle Queiro and Keith Watkins II were high-three-stars. Northwestern likes speed, and they'll have plenty of it this year and in the future.

And, that future should come sooner rather than later. There were times last year when an offense would use the secondary's aggression against them - flooding one side with passing routes, then slipping a player into the other side for a big gain. Again, these guys don't have elite speed. They're aggressive, ballsy defenders who weren't protected or helped by the front seven. And it was too easy for offenses to use that aggressiveness against them.

Looking ahead to 2015, I think Pat Fitzgerald and Mike Hankwitz should consider moving Traveon Henry up into the box and playing a five-man defensive backfield. This defense has a chance to be more disruptive and more disciplined, and I think they can get that by having speed in the box. Run defense will be a problem for a smaller defense, but their athletes at linebacker were a bit susceptible to overplaying one side or getting stuck in the wash, anyway. Now, with a veteran cast of linebackers moving on, the question becomes: if you're going to be aggressive, why not do it with the four-star speed you're collecting in the backfield, rather than the two-star and three-star linebackers with even less experience? It will protect the depth at linebacker and give the staff more time to train their young guys.

This summer will be a chance for Fitzgerald and Hankwitz to see how the young guys develop, and also determine how good their linebacking corps can be. Any changes they make would, of course, hinge on those assessments. But I wouldn't be surprised if they opted for more nickel packages, letting the speed in the back seven protect the play-making of Odenigbo and Kuhar up front.

Of course, then again this staff might not do that. Fitzgerald has been averse to changes before, and Kuhar and Odenigbo didn't get a lot of playing time last year because they didn't fit what he was looking for. How flexible can Fitz be? What will this defense try to do? It's something to watch.

Overall, this is a team with better depth and growing athleticism, and that spells a rebound in 2015. There are still flaws, particularly at linebacker and the offensive line, and those will hold Northwestern back. But 2015 has a chance to be a very good season, and also a chance to regain momentum. After a nightmarish ride the last two years, the Wildcats definitely need it.

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