Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos

Over the Mnookin

Heading back to the Emerald City this morning, so we’ll make this a quick one. The UW Regents hired Jennifer Mnookin to be the next UW Madison chancellor. She’s currently the dean of the UCLA law school and she went to Harvard, Yale and MIT. All fine schools, but she has no ties to Wisconsin.Continue reading “Over the Mnookin”


Whether or not the Democrats can ride what appears to be the impending overturning of Roe v. Wade to victories in November turns on one word: rare. When I wrote about this last week I said that I liked Bill Clinton’s formulation that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” I suspected when I wroteContinue reading “Rare”

Midwest: A New Voice

I admit it. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder when it comes to the Midwest. Virtually all of our national media and culture (movies, TV, radio shows, publishing houses, etc.) comes from the coasts. And their attitude toward the middle of the country? To paraphrase Rick played by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “They’d despiseContinue reading “Midwest: A New Voice”

He Shoots! He Scores!

Tom Nelson has joined Alex Lasry and Sarah Godlewski with a television ad buy. The least-funded of the four major candidates vying to take on Sen. Ron Johnson in November will probably have the smallest reach, but the ad itself could pack a bigger punch. The fourth candidate, Mandela Barnes, has yet to hit theContinue reading “He Shoots! He Scores!”

Midwest: Firewood

I’m late with my Midwest post this Sunday, but I’m still getting it in before Sunday ends — and I have a good excuse. It’s the firewood window up here in the U.P., and so I was using every daylight hour I could to put in my stock for the fall. I count the firewoodContinue reading “Midwest: Firewood”

Safe, Legal & Rare

For the third time in six years Democrats and liberals are being given an opportunity to turn tragedy into progress. Will they blow it again? What was surprising about the leak of the draft of a decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade was the leak itself, not its substance. From the moment the SupremeContinue reading “Safe, Legal & Rare”

Midwest: Where Is It?

Now on week three of my promised Sunday morning series about the Midwest, some thoughtful readers have chimed in to ask: do you even know what you’re talking about? Now, in truth, that question is asked regularly on any number of topics I have addressed in this and other spaces. It’s not even limited toContinue reading “Midwest: Where Is It?”

Midwest: Rust Belt No More

What other region would put up with a moniker like “The Rust Belt”? Would the West Coast be okay with “The Drought Belt”? How about “The Wildfire Belt” for the Mountain states? Or the “Flooded Cities Belt” for the East Coast? But virtually every news outlet, including local ones, uses “Rust Belt” without a secondContinue reading “Midwest: Rust Belt No More”

Purge the Activists

I’ve served as an aide to politicians and as a politician myself and here’s what I’ve learned: activists have no role in a public official’s office, and when they start pushing for their own agendas they should be shown the door as soon as possible. This comes up now as the Biden Administration is bleedingContinue reading “Purge the Activists”

Leave Mickey Alone

Anybody else tired of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis kicking Mickey Mouse around? Here’s the back story. A few weeks ago Florida passed a law, supported by DeSantis, which restricted formal teaching about gender identity (but not any discussion of it) in K-3 education. The left went ballistic, dubbing it the “don’t say gay bill.” UnderContinue reading “Leave Mickey Alone”

The Pay for Grades Hoax

The UW Madison is about to do yet another really dumb thing. According to a story in today’s Wisconsin State Journal, Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who will soon (but not soon enough) leave for her new job at Northwestern, is proposing that the school should pay athletes for being students. That’s right. Blank would pay theContinue reading “The Pay for Grades Hoax”

Midwest: Bad Weather

This week we’re inaugurating a new weekly feature here at YSDA: a Sunday morning essay about the Midwest. I’ve been thinking about the Midwest for a long time, at least going back to my days as Mayor of Madison. I would go to national conferences, many in Washington, DC, and get the feeling when IContinue reading “Midwest: Bad Weather”

Don’t Cancel Jefferson

We’ve been struggling with a way to write about the move by the Madison School Board to change the name of Jefferson Middle School — in a way that says something more enlightening then that it’s a really bad idea. Well, our old friend Harry Peterson published an oped in the Wisconsin State Journal recentlyContinue reading “Don’t Cancel Jefferson”

UW Screws Up Again

What is it with my alma mater? Last year the UW became a national curiosity (to put it gently) when it banished a boulder for committing the offense of being referred to by an ugly name. Once. A century ago. At a time when the ugly name was in common usage. On the heels ofContinue reading “UW Screws Up Again”

Wednesday Catchup

Since we reduced YSDA from a daily blog to three days a week we find ourselves leaving stuff on the cutting room floor. And, of course, without our wisdom and guidance, you’re left wondering what to think about important issues. Well, let’s solve that problem by doing some quick hits. First, there’s the heartbreak ofContinue reading “Wednesday Catchup”

“Light Blue” Banned!

Since we released our e-book, Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority, earlier this month sales have been, uh, modest. Then we remembered that one of the very best marketing strategies for books is to get them banned. And there’s plenty of stuff in Light Blue that should get the bannersContinue reading ““Light Blue” Banned!”

The Portal Changes All

It was subtle, but it said it all. Last week in a column he cleverly titles “Open Jim”, new Wisconsin State Journal sports page editor Jim Polzin answers a reader’s question, which goes like this: “What does the Wisconsin men’s basketball team need in the transfer portal?” The “transfer portal” is a phrase that hasContinue reading “The Portal Changes All”

Simkin For Our Schools

I have been strongly critical of the current Madison School Board and the direction it has taken us in the last few years. There has been a breakdown in basic safety and order. Staff and teachers feel like this Board doesn’t have their backs. The Board seems focussed on kids who are disruptive and under-achievingContinue reading “Simkin For Our Schools”

Pledge of Resistance

In the category of ‘oh, why open up this can of worms?‘ comes a story from yesterday’s Wisconsin State Journal about Dane County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner’s attempt to end the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before board meetings. Her proposal would also eliminate any reference to an opening prayer. Let’s start with theContinue reading “Pledge of Resistance”

Bet on Evers

While it’s far from a sure thing, I am feeling increasingly confident that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will eke out a victory in November. Here’s why.  Let me deal with the headwinds first. It’s a mid-term election and mid-terms can be brutal for the party that controls the White House. Evers’ Democrats are likely toContinue reading “Bet on Evers”

Language Lessons

God help me, I listen to public radio and read the New York Times. People talk and write in those places in ways that normal human beings just don’t. What’s worse is that the gap between how liberal elites talk (or at least the language they accept) and how average Americans speak is growing andContinue reading “Language Lessons”

Please Make It Stop

It’s getting pretty hard to write about Michael Gableman. How many times can a guy use words like idiot, fool, incompetent and bungler, in a post? How many times can a reader stand to see “investigation” in quotes? How many references can one make to clowns and circuses before he gets a cease and desistContinue reading “Please Make It Stop”

Marathon Completed

Welcome to the 365th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. I made it. I’ve crossed the finish line. I get the medal and the t-shirt. And two tickets for use at the beer tent. For reasons I can’t put my finger on, I decided several months ago to see if I could post aContinue reading “Marathon Completed”

Vos: Not Crazy Enough?

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is the longest-serving speaker in Wisconsin history. To some on the hard-right in his own party he may have over-stayed his welcome. Vos has spent most of his career holding onto power by appeasing the crazies in his own caucus just enough. That explains his embarrassing “investigation” into last November’s electionContinue reading “Vos: Not Crazy Enough?”


Tomorrow it will be eight degrees for a high here in Watersmeet. A nice breeze will make it less toasty, though. I’m going skiing. Nothing unusual about that. I’ve been out cross country skiing on 10 of the last 12 days. I love winter. I love cold weather. Now, there’s nothing wrong with people whoContinue reading “Cold”

In Praise of Pols

We’ve been saving up small stories of moderate, bipartisan political courage and today we’d like to share them with you along with a nice round of applause for the pols who have done the right thing. Let’s start with former Vice President Mike Pence. Last week Pence finally came out and said plainly that DonaldContinue reading “In Praise of Pols”

Suck It Up, People

Today we’re going to hear from Jessica Bennett, an opinion writer for the New York Times. Bennett’s piece, headlined If Everything is ‘Trauma,’ Is Anything? appeared on February 4th. One of our enduring themes here at YSDA is that we’ve become a culture of whiners. Instead of encouraging the positive human trait of cheerfully turningContinue reading “Suck It Up, People”

Biden Moves Center

This has been a good week for Pres. Joe Biden. There are indications that he may have concluded that he’s done enough to placate the hard-left in his party and now he’s going to move back to the center. This week Biden dusted off a fight against cancer that he started as Vice President, madeContinue reading “Biden Moves Center”

Liberals Are Not Dumb

The other day a close friend who is an occasional YSDA reader and a certified Madison liberal offered this pithy, sarcastic analysis of our work: “Yeah, liberals are dumb. We get it, already.” That got me to thinking. Well, no, I don’t think my fellow liberals are dumb, exactly. I think too many of themContinue reading “Liberals Are Not Dumb”

Let’s Not Have to Mourn Our Morning Paper

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.  That’s how Madisonians might feel if they wake up one morning and discover that their morning daily newspaper has been bought up and hollowed out by a “vulture capital” group.  Alden Global Capital is making a hostile takeover attempt to acquire a controlling interest in LeeContinue reading “Let’s Not Have to Mourn Our Morning Paper”

Dems See an America Most Americans Don’t Recognize

Good Sunday morning. Today we’re going to hear from Christopher Caldwell. Caldwell is a contributing editor at The Claremont Review of Books. He is the author of “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West” and “The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties.” This piece appeared on January 25th in the NewContinue reading “Dems See an America Most Americans Don’t Recognize”

Manchin’s Justice

Let’s just cut to the chase. It comes down to this: which Black woman jurist will be acceptable to Sen. Joe Manchin? That’s really all that matters now that Justice Stephen Breyer has announced his retirement. Pres. Joe Biden has locked himself into selecting a Black woman, but he still needs all 50 Democrats, includingContinue reading “Manchin’s Justice”

Redistricting: Short-term Pain for Long-term Gain

Democrats are pursuing a redistricting strategy that could result in an absolute bloodbath this fall, but better news for them over the coming decade. That’s my takeaway from this interesting analysis by the Associated Press. Democrats will start out with two big disadvantages in the mid-terms. The first is just history. On average, the partyContinue reading “Redistricting: Short-term Pain for Long-term Gain”

Biden’s Problem

I think I’ve hit on Pres. Joe Biden’s fundamental problem: he was never a mayor. When you’ve been a mayor of a liberal city you learn one thing right out of the gate: the left is never, ever satisfied. The left lives to be disgruntled. They cannot govern because being outside shouting at the powersContinue reading “Biden’s Problem”

I’m For Free Speech

Let’s hear it for Becca Meltz. Meltz chairs the College Republicans of UW-Madison. When she was contacted for comment about the scheduled appearance on campus next week of 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones, Meltz said the group has always been and will continue to be advocates for free speech. Students should have the opportunity toContinue reading “I’m For Free Speech”

Biden’s Bad Choices

Good Sunday morning. It’s chilly out there. Today we’re going to hear from Ross Douthat, a right-center columnist for the New York Times. And let me pause here and put in a word for the good old Times. The paper’s snobby, condescending coastalness and obsession with the latest fashions in affluent white liberal thought oftenContinue reading “Biden’s Bad Choices”

It’s Time For Bunny Rabbits and Ice Cream

Here’s what Pres. Joe Biden’s press secretary said yesterday about his troubles getting his legislation through Congress: “You do hard things in White Houses, You have every challenge laid at your feet, whether it’s global or domestically. And we could certainly propose legislation to see if people support bunny rabbits and ice cream, but thatContinue reading “It’s Time For Bunny Rabbits and Ice Cream”

The Voting Rights Mess

If Pres. Joe Biden and Vice Pres. Kamala Harris went down to Georgia yesterday to shoot themselves in the foot, well, mission accomplished. They can hobble around Washington now because they came back weaker than when they left. The campaign swing through Georgia was designed to show their base that the administration is fired upContinue reading “The Voting Rights Mess”

Open the Schools

On the merits of the case, it’s a close call. On the politics it’s a no-brainer. I’d go with the politics. I speak here of decisions to open schools or force teaching online due to the latest virus surge. The decision pits parents (also known as voters) against teachers unions (also known as THE sacredContinue reading “Open the Schools”

RoJo, Annotated

Yesterday Ron Johnson announced his candidacy for reelection. Did he make his announcement in Wisconsin or in his hometown newspaper at least? Nope. He announced on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal — while decrying “the mainstream media.” Johnson has a way of saying things he doesn’t actually believe. For example, shortly afterContinue reading “RoJo, Annotated”

Beware Ron Johnson

Press reports this morning indicate that Sen. Ron Johnson will announce his bid for a third term next week. This doesn’t surprise me… though if he had decided to hang it up, that wouldn’t have surprised me either. Truth is, I had no idea what the guy was going to do. Johnson is the oddestContinue reading “Beware Ron Johnson”

1/6/21 – 11/5/24

It feels like we’re in the interim, a tense time when we’re waiting to see what happens next. January 6, 2021 was one of those days when people needed to stand up and be counted. It was like December 7, 1941. Leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor there was a robust isolationist movementContinue reading “1/6/21 – 11/5/24”

Last Words

Last week I listed my 10 favorite books of 2021, but I didn’t count local writers in that list. Over the course of the next month, I’ll look deeper at a handful of books by Wisconsin writers that I enjoyed last year. Let’s start today with Dead Lines by George Hesselberg. One advantage of havingContinue reading “Last Words”

Radical Practicality

We all know that mayors are where it’s at. Presidents and governors give speeches, senators hold hearings, Congressmen where nice buttons on their lapels. But mayors do stuff. Even the loftiest of politicians, once they become mayor, quickly transform into the purveyors of nuts and bolts. They might come into office talking about “new urbanism”Continue reading “Radical Practicality”

’21 Could Have Been Worse

Good news is rare, not because it doesn’t exist but because “news” is pretty much defined as negative. There are exceptions, of course, but when things go right that’s more or less expected, and when they go wrong that’s notable.  So, for example, when your city plows the streets beautifully after a blizzard, it doesn’tContinue reading “’21 Could Have Been Worse”


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