1. Who I am and why I started the Weekly Sift.

The Weekly Sift is written by Doug Muder, a 60-something ex-mathematician who lives in Bedford, MA and hates writing about himself in the third person. (So enough of that.)

Writing and journalism were my original ambition from back when I was editor of my high-school paper and had an after-school job at my hometown daily, the Quincy Herald-Whig. (I ran pieces of paper from the newsroom to the composing room, where skilled workers operated machines I have since seen in the Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, MA.)

In college I fell in love with another subject — mathematics — and went on to get a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. My thesis was on algebraic geometry. (You don’t really want to know what that is.) I later did work on codes and information theory for the MITRE Corporation. (The only relevance mathematics has to the Sift is that Supreme Court opinions are easy to follow if you’re accustomed to reading mathematical proofs. Both revolve around deducing the consequences of abstract definitions.)

My mid-life crisis didn’t involve co-eds and sports cars. Instead, I went back to writing. I co-authored some Dummies books and some massive tomes about how to use Windows and the new-fangled Internet.

Eventually I started getting articles published on more interesting subjects like politics and religion (though I still haven’t managed to publish any fiction to speak of, unless you count this). It hardly paid anything, but my wife was OK with that. Deb is the behind-the-scenes hero of the Weekly Sift.

I got into blogging because we moved to New Hampshire. Let me unpack that a little. Early in 2003, I realized that Democratic presidential candidates were just begging for my attention. As voter in the First Primary, I had a level of access that my friends could only dream about. So I made a project out of seeing all the candidates. And then it occurred to me that if I wrote about it, I could take my friends on a vicarious journey.

It started as email, but (to anyone who has the genetic predisposition to write) email is just a gateway drug. Before long I was blogging on Daily Kos as Pericles. (In his heyday of 2004-2005, Pericles was a mid-level Kossack. My posts made the Recommended List occasionally, but not consistently.)

The Weekly Sift started as a way to get some momentum on Monday mornings. The idea was that I’d bookmark interesting links during the week, and then on Monday I’d do a post about them. Those posts kept getting longer and longer, until they finally turned into this blog.


  • weeklysift  On September 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I’d rather see comments about specific posts attached to those posts. Comments on this page will be periodically deleted.

    • Emma  On September 3, 2014 at 8:21 am

      With respect to “Not a Teaparty…”, one error. It was Bush who took the election to the Supreme Court, not Gore.

      • Elaine  On June 9, 2015 at 10:36 am

        True. That was the case that caused me to think the court may be rigged.

      • 1mime  On March 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

        I have heard that Ted Cruz was one of the attorneys who worked on the Bush appeal to SCOTUS. Is that true, and, what was his exact role? What is interesting is that G.W. Bush has not had many nice comments about Cruz….which is odd if he was instrumental in his appeal…..which, the whole thing “stank” IMO, but I have seen no proof of deceit. SCOTUS decision to cancel the recount always seemed highly suspicious to me.

      • weeklysift  On March 26, 2016 at 7:11 am

        According to an article by Jeffrey Tobin in The New Yorker:

        “When the result of the 2000 campaign devolved into a legal struggle over the vote in Florida, Cruz was well situated to play an important role. By the Thursday after Election Day, he was in Tallahassee. “Through an odd bit of serendipity, it happened that I was the only practicing lawyer, and, in particular, constitutional litigator, who had been on the full-time campaign team,” Cruz told me. “One of the realities of the recount and life is that lawyers and political folks don’t really speak the same language. By the accident of being in that place I found myself, there was sort of a small leadership team that consisted of Jim Baker and Josh Bolten and Ted Olson and George Terwilliger and Ben Ginsberg and me. And I’m twenty-nine years old, this kid, and all of these other folks are Cabinet members and masters of the universe.” Ginsberg, the national counsel to the Bush campaign, and his associates set up seven teams of lawyers to address the sprawling controversies generated by the recount, and Cruz was the only lawyer who served on all seven. His job was to encourage communication and assure consistent positions.

        ‘I’ve been amused at some of the subsequent descriptions of Bush versus Gore, because they sort of described us as this fine-oiled machine with a careful strategy,’ Cruz said. ‘It was one tiny notch slightly below utter chaos.’

        Cruz’s initial assignment was to assemble a legal team. His first call was to his former mentor Carvin, who wound up representing Bush before the Florida Supreme Court. Cruz’s second call was to a Washington lawyer named John Roberts. ‘John had been a friend and a Rehnquist clerk—I’ve known John a long time,’ Cruz said. ‘Everyone we called, without exception, dropped everything and came down. And for a young lawyer, I mean, it was a breathtaking and humbling experience to get the chance to carry the bag and work alongside some of the most talented lawyers in the country.’ ”

      • weeklysift  On March 26, 2016 at 7:17 am

        Thanks, Emma. I fixed the mistake.

      • Charles  On August 12, 2020 at 10:48 pm

        The Gore campaign sued to force Miami-Dade County to continue its recount, but the Florida Supreme Court refused to consider the request. … After that decision, the Bush campaign appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the state court effectively rewrote state election statutes after the vote.

  • Pamela V'Combe  On March 21, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Dear Mr. Muder, I have been able to follow 90% of the events regarding last year’s Arab Spring, but have not integrated the Syrian facet into my overall framework about the Middle East. Have you written about Syria, and if so, would you be kind enough to forward the week that your essay was posted.

    Thank you for your attention to this request.

    Pamela V’Combe

    • weeklysift  On March 22, 2012 at 8:01 am

      I haven’t written about Syria. That’s a major hole in the Sift’s coverage. At the very least, I’ll try to find somebody else’s analysis to put in next week’s short notes.

      • Anonymous  On July 16, 2015 at 2:19 pm

        Please do. This is so complicated to me, and I don’t see any good answers. I don’t even have a framework to analyze the situation as so many of the players seem to be “bad guys,” it’s hard to understand.

  • Pamela V'Combe  On March 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Thank you for your effort. Since this is World Water Week, it may make sense to discuss fracking.

  • jayne4obama  On August 14, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Thank you for this – I shared with my email list and asked them to share as well. We will be outspent by hundreds of millions of dollars this election cycle so WE must be the media for Obama and Democrats running for Congress and the Senate. We NEED Obama to be re-elected and with as many Democrats as possible to help him finish the job that he only has started.

  • Duncan Potter  On September 18, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I just read “Dealing with the distress of the privileged”. Kudos. One of the best things I’ve read in quite a while.

  • Wayne Self  On September 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Doug, it’s Wayne Self over at Owldolatrous.com. I’m the guy who wrote the Aesop’s Fable piece that you used in “The Distress of the Privileged.” I’m glad it did so well!

    I’ve started a new venture at my site called Owldolatrous Press, featuring other soulful, thoughtful contributors. I’d like to talk to you about partnering up in some way and promoting one another more purposefully. Not sure how to reach you, though. Assuming my email address shows up for you when you receive this comment, please email me directly! Thanks.


    • weeklysift  On September 26, 2012 at 11:36 am

      This sounds like a marvelous idea. You can write to me at weeklysift at gmail.com

  • JB  On October 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I absolutely love the Sift, and I’ve been linking and re-linking people to it, and various articles in it. Which brings me to this point: it’s really damn hard to find articles in it, once they’ve passed their week. Have you considered putting a search button on the sidebar? In a wordpress blog, it’s not hard!


  • Brent  On July 17, 2013 at 3:05 am

    WOW. I had heard of the Powell memo; see, i just turned 50, here in Madison, WI, & I still get carded at bars on State st. I only recently EVER voted, but I’m interested in politics because, ya know, politics is REALLY the shortest path to money & power….You got the best political links I’ve seen & I got BOTH sides, by the dozen…(gotta admit, The Blaze has some interesting news…where FOX doesn’t), but the Dems only send emails asking for MONEY.
    Keep up the GOOD Work.

  • Judy Schroeder  On February 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Just to say thanks for such an insightful summary of racism and the disrespect toward this President. When he won the first time, I said to friends that we would need to figure out how to defend him, which never happened past the first volley. But documenting the patterns and raising the naive question “what do you call this?”, might help. Thanks.

  • skinnercitycyclist  On August 15, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Please stop sending me updates there is no way I can find to stop gettung updates please UNSUBSCRIBE ME

    • weeklysift  On August 15, 2014 at 7:36 am

      I feel your pain, but I believe subscriptions are between you and WordPress. I don’t think I have any control.

  • David  On August 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    FYI–the Confederate battle flag is not the Stars and Bars. Otherwise, I liked your reflection on Reconstruction.

  • Milton Allimadi  On August 27, 2014 at 4:10 am

    Greetings. Can we repost the weekly sift on http://www.blackstarnews.com? Especially Not A Tea Party?

    • weeklysift  On August 27, 2014 at 7:38 am

      As long as you put in a link back to the Sift, I’m happy. The more people see the articles, the better.

  • Pat Dunlap  On August 30, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    My daughter sent me your article, “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party.” I hold a doctorate in history with a focus on the ideas that produced democracy during the Enlightenment. My grandfather was a southern historian who helped to found the Mississippi Historical Society. His father fought for the Confederacy. I’ve read and reread the versions of history that emerged from the Confederacy and recognize them as equally twisted as are today’s Tea Party versions. I’ve been trying to get this concept across for years, but you’ve hit it right on the head. BRAVO!

  • remusing  On April 27, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I am not impressed that i was involuntarily subscribed to your site (which I have never heard of before this moment). How exactly does THAT work?

    • weeklysift  On April 28, 2015 at 5:59 am

      Wish I knew. WordPress.com handles all the subscription stuff, sometimes not very well.

  • R Neal Peterson  On June 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    Dear Doug Muder – Congratulations!
    I have just finished reading your “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party.” A fantastic piece of writing and scholarship. Your style kept me engaged, and your marshaling of fact & history illuminated me. I felt vindicated by your explanation of the “established social order” as motivation before and since the Civil War. Personally, I have felt for a long time that too little attention has been paid to the importance of the established social order in determining revolution & counter revolution in America. In addition, I think it is central to explaining other aspects of American life in the 20th century: many themes surround gender roles and sexual mores — the reaction against women wearing pants (now moot), young men wearing long hair, the hippies in general, gays and lesbians coming out of the closet (of course), the advent of the birth control pill, women’s liberation & equal rights, etc.
    Neal Peterson

  • Michael Sales  On June 23, 2015 at 5:53 am

    Your piece on Reconstruction is a revelation for me. Truly an excellent explanation of why America is in such a rut. I might quibble about an element of two, but to no end really.

    I look forward to learning more from your thinking.

    Parenthetically, I’m backing Hillary at this point. Saunders’ rhetoric is too far to the Left, imop, and he’ll never get traction. She has plenty of problems, of course, but all of the Republicans, save Kasich and Pataki, perhaps, are way too influenced by neoconfederate thinking. (Christie is also probably not much of a neoconfederate, but he’s from hunger.)

  • jerihammond2013  On June 23, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Doug, thank you for writing the Weekly Sift – it is required reading on Monday’s, even when I’m bogged down preparing for a class (I teach undergrad courses in law and ethics in a number of contexts.) On numerous occasions, I’ve reposted your blog to my own FB page and have emailed the link to friends not on FB. As a former resident of NH, I have a soft spot for the state and that fits with the image of you I had created before reading your bio. (I lived in Goffstown for about five years, although I was in law school in Boston for three of those years and commuted back and forth on weekends.) I especially appreciated your blogs dealing with the cult of the Confederacy. I grew up in the deep south (Alabama & Mississippi), and could relate to them, but all of your blogs are well-written and thoughtful – something that is often in short supply these days. Keep up the good work!

  • Winnipesaukee Bob  On June 24, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you for your blog. My daughter turned me on to it.

  • Joyce Lilly  On June 27, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Wow first time I have read your blog about the Tea Party/ Confederate Party. You should write a screen play and get on TV. Very smart and well written, kudos to you😀

  • Miriam  On June 28, 2015 at 1:59 am

    Just a quick note to say that I found your post on “Not a Tea Party” and just had to look up more of what you’d done. Lo and behold, you live in the same town as me and are also a math geek (I am a math teacher)!! Kudos to you, love the blog, thanks for writing!

  • coastcontact  On June 28, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Doug Muder loves writing in this blog. Monday starts in less than 24 hours. Perhaps he wants to get a start on July 4 festivities.

  • Jerome Nicolas  On June 28, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I just wanted to drop you a line and say your analysis of the Tea Party and the Confederacy was spot-on and brilliantly written.

    If you are interested, I have written a book which I suspect aligns well with your politics. The title is the thesis. America is supposed to stand for the three interdependent ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy – what I call the three legs of the tripod. But conservatives oppose all three and accordingly try to play them off against each other in a zero sum game. This also explains why they are quick to question their opponents’ patriotism – they are projecting. Moreover, a number of founding fathers advocated wealth caps and/or wealth redistribution to prevent aristocracy in America:


    I also have a blog:


  • Shankar Kurra  On October 13, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Dear Doug,

    Thank you for the insightful take on the reality of our society in your brilliantly written post – “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party”.

    I am keenly looking forward to future posts!

    Warm regards,

    Shankar Kurra

  • Angelo Canino  On November 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Since being introduced to the Weekly Sift by my son I have been a regular reader for nearly a year now. I think what you are doing is great and your positions are much inline with my own although you are vastly more capable of coherently communicating them than I am. However, as received the lines/sentences of the messages do not word wrap at the commonly 76-80 character length. To read a sentence I need to horizontally scroll to the extreme right before it wraps to the next line. This makes the reading rather clumsy. I find this happens mostly with senders using Apple computers. It would be greatly appreciated if the articles could be sent out formatted to word wrap at the 76-80 character line length. Thanks for the consideration.

  • ccyager  On November 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Hi, Doug — I just nominated you for a blog award! Please check it out here: https://ccyager.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/oh-what-a-lovely-blog-award/

  • Bill Camarda  On December 9, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    I’ve admired your work for a long time. I know you’ve been trying to figure out better ways to frame progressive politics for awhile. I’ve taken my own cut at it here: “My America.”

    I hope I haven’t borrowed any of your language, but I’m sure some of this has been influenced by some of what you’ve written. Possibly a line or two of this will be of value to you at some point — and again, thanks for your hard and thoughtful work.

    • weeklysift  On December 10, 2015 at 8:24 am

      I intend my language to be catchy, with the hope that the terms I use will go viral. So if you borrow any of it, you’re doing what I want. I’ll get around to looking at your essay later today.

    • weeklysift  On December 10, 2015 at 8:50 am

      It’s a beautiful vision, well presented. I wonder if “My America” might become a meme, so that lots of bloggers might write their own “My America”. That could be a powerful thing.

      • Bill Camarda  On December 10, 2015 at 9:56 am

        Thank you so much. I would love to hear others share their “My America.”

  • Jim Luke  On December 21, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Hello Doug! I’m a community college professor in Michigan. I teach economics, including both econ history and comparative systems as well as the normal principles courses. I enjoy your blog and find your writing very clear. I’d like to make a suggestion that would help people like me use your writing in classes to help students. Specifically, I don’t see any specification of copyright or copyright licensing on your blog. It would help me and a lot of other teachers and professos if you would consider labeling and assigning a Creative Commons license to your posts so that we could re-use them in classes. See http://creativecommons.org/# for more info. Perhaps a CC-BY license (which requires attribution upon re-use), or CC-BY-SA (which adds share-alike licensing to any re-use), or if you’re concerned about your words being edited/twisted in re-use, a CC-BY-SA-ND which prohibits derivative works. You’ve mentioned before that blog posts tend to fade after awhile which is sad. But you’ve written many good explanations that need to live on in classes – for example, today’s post on freedom vs. rights. Putting a license on it would really help us teachers/professors and boost the growing Open Educ Resources (OER)/ Open Learning movement. Thanks for the consideration.

  • smartalek  On March 5, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    My mid-life crisis didn’t involve co-eds and sports cars. Instead, I went back to writing.”

    This seems to imply that writing (or some other higher-order vocation) and co-eds/sports cars are mutually exclusive.
    I assure you they are not.
    You made a choice, and it appears to have been the right choice for you.
    But neither that choice nor the choice to go only the co-eds/sports cars route are the only choices possible.

  • oneearthlybody  On May 11, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    How about a search function for this blog? I’d love to read what you think on a variety of topics! Any chance you can add the WordPress search module to the site?

    Thanks for great analysis and synthesis!

  • Karim  On October 20, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Please consider a podcast or a weekly YouTube channel because your content is deeply insightful and your writing is great!

    Thank you

    Toronto, Canada

  • Mikel Aickin  On November 22, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    I agree with just about everything you write (and I’m a retired biostatistician, so I also sympathize with your background).I offer you my more radical comments on many of the issues you address, at http://www.tiredfeather.us.

  • 1mime  On November 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    How does one follow your pieces, Mikel?

  • Chuck LaBerge  On March 3, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Doug: Can you help me out? I’m looking for your post on liberty vs. freedom. It stuck in my brain when I read it and now I’m trying to find it in the archives. Thanks.

  • Sonia Pressman Fuentes  On March 25, 2017 at 9:35 am

    In “Donnie in the Room” why do you refer to “man to man” in the 3rd line? Were there no women Republicans involved?

    • weeklysift  On August 29, 2017 at 8:41 am

      It’s an intentional jibe. It’s true that some Republican congresspeople are women, but the ObamaCare-replacement process often involved men-only groups.

  • s c miller  On August 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Just found out about you — better late than never. fits well with Menand’s scholarship and insights in his , which was another eye-opener for me. It also fits well into my reading list with some of Theo Horesh’s writing about the Middle East.

  • madbeemer  On August 28, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you, Doug! I read you religiously, despite being agnostic. All I want to gno is what you say in the Sift. If I start commenting on what I get from you, I’ll run out of space on my phone.
    Did I say thank you?
    Erik Mølbach
    Transplanted Norwegian.
    Chatham, NY

  • Anonymous  On September 4, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Why do so many people have to see everything through a lens of politics? Sometimes things are just what they are. And yet you feel the need to propagandize teachers so they can more effectively propagandize young minds. This just isn’t right.

  • Jim  On November 10, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Great blog. I just agreed to re-invigorate a somewhat dormant blog for a progressive group in Eastern Washington state. It will probably be a couple of weeks before I re-publish it with new content. The page I am charged to manage is committed to replacing Cathy McMorris Rogers in the 5th Congressional District. Yesterday, the DNC announced they are targeting this District as well
    and will be directing national resources to it…finally. We have a great candidate to stand against CMR and Trump is driving dollars and volunteers to her. Hope you don’t mind if I link to your site from ours on occasion. I will send you a link to our site as well, once I have it ready again for prime time.

  • David Pollard  On January 3, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    The new “Tell All” about the start of the Trump Admin has Jared Kushner claiming to be “I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.”
    Perhaps this can be looked into?

  • Jeff R.  On March 17, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Your article of Tea Party = Confederate Party is referenced in comments to the article https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/3/17/1842804/-The-American-Civil-War-never-ended?utm_campaign=trending. The DK article is persuasive and validates your premise.

  • Anonymous  On April 24, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks for your excellent news summaries. Have you considered reading them aloud as a podcast? That would make it even easier for busy people like me to access your content.

  • Vern gaw  On January 28, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    In regards to Impeachment reversing an election, ” Yes, it partially reverses the 2016 election.” I’d argue it has no effect on the election and the elected will always show as a President of the US. However said President will be recorded as having been removed for failure to act in accordance with his oath.

  • Jake Orlowitz (@JakeOrlowitz)  On April 20, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Doug. I used to be a news junkie. I’d scroll Facebook and Twitter for the hottest headlines, reading articles 3-5 hours each day. Life took over and with a pregnant wife and busy job I just couldn’t invest that much time or emotional energy into following what’s happening. I found your newsletter last year and it’s changed my media diet entirely. I don’t have to hunt and compile hundreds of articles because I know each week you will break down the most critical subjects within simple but compelling and persuasive frameworks. Thank you for reassuring me that I can understand the world and still take care of my life!

  • ericfolkerth  On June 12, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    Doug: I apologize for leaving this comment here…I can’t find a contact email (Or missed it…)
    This blog of yours from 2014 changed my world. I’m wondering if the themes in it (The South Won the War) might be revisted in 2020, given our current social unrest and the conversation about monuments.

    • weeklysift  On June 13, 2020 at 6:30 am

      I will give that some thought. The idea that the statues are “victory monuments” does come up from time to time, but I haven’t explicitly revisited “Not a Tea Party”.

  • Mark  On September 22, 2020 at 9:53 am

    Pls notify me of new posts

  • Carol J. Butterfield  On September 20, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful writing!

  • Michael  On October 17, 2022 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Doug, in light of your past work I thought you might find the following essay interesting, since it expands on the concept of the American “long civil war” in the 1800s: https://www.patreon.com/posts/living-in-from-64722367

  • Vern Gaw  On March 21, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    So, if we are to understand woke, maybe we should consider what represents folks who are offended by woke; fell asleep.


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