First they came

First they came for the Anarchists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an anarchist.

Then they came for Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not muslim.

Then they came for Black Lives Matter, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not black.

Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


After Pastor Martin Niemöller.

A debate for grown-ups

I’m surprised to report that I enjoyed watching the Democratic candidates debate last night. Well I enjoyed two of them anyway. I was only able to access the video stream on about half the time but Twitter kept me looped in without missing a moment. I collected my favorite tweets below.

I was surprised to see that even some of my friends participated in commentary that attacked people for their gender (Hillary the ice queen), culture (Bernie the hippie), or their appearance (pretty much everyone). I can only assume that people do this because they are either extremely immature or they have no legitimate policy critique to make.

I am particularly sick of the hippie-baiting. I come from a long line of hippies and we love our country as much as anyone, if not moreso. Who was there working for civil rights, who marched against the Vietnam War, who cried out against the Iraq War? History will show that we have been on the side of justice and we have been right. Stop marginalizing hippies and listen!

Nonviolence is still a radical notion

the-montgomery-storyAll of the comics in The Village Voice‘s “The 10 Most Subversive Comics at New York Comic Con” look great, but I most appreciated the shout out to John Lewis’ new book March (which I just read) as well as the Fellowship of Reconciliation‘s 1957 comic explaining nonviolent direct action.

I originally discovered The Montgomery Story when I worked at FOR. I’m so glad they are reprinting it!

“The most subversive comic available at New York Comic Con is at the Top Shelf booth, a reprint of The Montgomery Story, a comic first published in 1957 and approved by Martin Luther King Jr., who saw the pre-published pages and made editorial changes. Most important is a section in the back called “How the Montgomery Method Works,” a blueprint for passive resistance. This comic has been translated into countless languages (a Top Shelf rep showed me Spanish, Arabic, and Farsi). It’s an instruction book for changing the world, and it continues to do so.”


Local officials need to respond to state politics

Cross-post from OrangePolitics.

A recent column by Kirk Ross in the Chapel Hill News makes very clear how increasingly relevant the N.C. General Assembly’s shenanigans are to us here at the local level. In the past, many have debated the utility of municipal and county governments weighing in with symbolic resoluitions about state and national issues. Well pardon my French, but sh*t just gotreal in Raleigh this summer.

Kirk calls on candidates to make clear what they would do to deal with many draconian budget cuts that will be painfully trickling down to us in months and years to come. This also points to why we need local officials to stand up and lead by fighting back against Art Pope, ALEC, and the other forces that want to drag down our entire state. I may be biased, but my friends the five Orange County elected officals that got arrested at Moral Monday are a great example of this. If you didn’t see it, please watch this video (embedded below) of Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton clearly explaining his constutional rights while being arested by the Capitol Police.

Back to Kirk:

Too often local officials get away with expressing frustration and promising to lobby the local legislative delegation for this issue or that. This year, expect to hear a lot of candidates say they are outraged, but ultimately powerless when it comes to what Raleigh does. That is unacceptable.

If you want to lead a town or a school system in this era you need a plan for dealing with the agenda of the state’s far-right power structure and its consequences. And you owe the voters at least a glimpse of what that plan is, because that slash-and-burn agenda is not going to stop just because the session has ended. And next year, there are already indications that even more changes are in store for cities and towns and public education.

You may have heard about what the Legislature has done to Asheville’s water system and Charlotte’s airport and how the two cities are now suing the state. These may have come across as parochial battles, but they should be clear warnings to anyone in local government.

– Kirk Ross: We must be ready the next time, 7/26/2013

This is what leadership looks like:

I highly recommend regular reading of The Carolina Mercury to stay informed about how our state is being run.

An open letter to the UNC community

I was a doubter when Holden Thorp was first appointed to be the UNC Chancellor, but he has turned out to be the best thing to happen to South Building in decades. I’ve been surprised to see some of my friends blaming Thorp for UNC’s athletics scandal and acting as if staff abuse of med air flights was a capital crime.

Thorp clearly seems guilty of trusting Matt Kupec too much, and allowing him to waste taxpayer dollars. But Thorp is also a tremendously thoughtful and effective leader of this hugely complex academic institution. One stupid screw-up wasting money does not outweigh the great job he has done for many thousands of students, for Orange County, and for the state of North Carolina. In fact, I think he’s due a lot of credit for the badly-needed daylight that’s been shed on UNC athletics.

The Chancellor’s position has become untenable now because of athletic boosters and anti-intellectuals like Art Pope pounding the drums of “scandal.” These people are not concerned with the quality of education available to North Carolinians. Of course the Kupec/Hansbrough thing was a big mistake, but it doesn’t make Thorp unfit to do all the many things required of a good university chancellor. Let’s don’t blame Thorp for having to clean up the mess left by decades of athletic corruption and mismanagement.

And with Pope stacking the BOG with his Republican pals and getting himself appointed to a new panel on the future of the UNC system, I’m afraid the next Chancellor will be someone that doesn’t care about Chapel Hill and does whatever the Ram’s Club wants. This will also not be a person who is able to fight off Pope’s decimation of the state educational system.

I urge the Chancellor to reconsider, and I call on students, alumni, faculty, and staff to continue to show support for Holden Thorp. The reason I love the Tar Heels is that I love the institution they represent. The Carolina Way means academic integrity and fair play. If we give UNC over to Art Pope and the Ram’s Club, I won’t have much to cheer for.


Ruby Sinreich,

UNC class of 1993

I stand for a free and open Internet.

A few weeks ago as many of us were patriotically wishing a happy birthday to the United States of America, a coalition of organizations including the ACLU and EFF launched a Declaration of Internet Freedom. I love how simple they kept it, while also encouraging engagement with the statement in a variety of online communities. The declaration is below, in text as well as the obligatory infographic format.

Individuals are invited to sign it at  AccessACLUCREDOEFF or Free Press, and to comment on it at on redditTechdirtCheezburger (yes, really!), Github and Rhizome. They have also invited organizations to sign on. I signed it on behalf of HASTAC, where I work. Have you or will you sign it?

Continue reading

My 2012 primary endorsements for Orange County, NC

Local politics can be difficult to follow, given the minimal media coverage and (fortunate) lack of political party involvement. Friends often ask me for my advice about how to vote in sleepy local elections such as this year’s Orange County Commissioners race. I can’t in good conscience endorse any of the incumbents. The current board seems to have invented a new form of government in which the staff sets policies, and then elected officials occasionally have misinformed or irrelevant discussions about them after the manager has already implemented his decision.

I strongly endorse Mark Dorosin and Penny Rich in District 1. Both will bring good ideas and real leadership to the Board of Orange County Commissioners. In District 2, I support Renee Price who will be
a better advocate for progressive policies than the incumbent. If you live in Hillsborough or rural Orange County, you will also be selecting 3 school board members. I recommend giving a vote to Lawrence Sanders who will bring thoughtful enthusiasm to the job. And there can be no doubt that Valerie Foushee is the best choice for NC House in every way. I’m happy to say that The Independent Weekly agrees, and endorsed all of these candidates as well.

If you enjoy living in one of the most open-minded and forward-thinking counties in North Carolina, as I do, I hope you will join me in voting for these hard-working progressive leaders. And if you have your own ideas about who people should vote for, I hope you will join the conversation at

Ruby Sinreich
Chapel Hill

Stop censorship. Stop PIPA/SOPA.

A blog post I wrote for work at 

HASTAC is joining with others around the U.S. and globally on the Internet to protest the outrageous SOPA/PIPA bill that – yes – is still making its way through Congress right now. Major organizations such Wikipedia,Mozilla, and many others are participating in a one-day black out, while others including Google, are using their home pages, as are we, to protest and inform about these frightening bills that would have a chilling impact on intellectual freedom and digital interaction. We were heartened by the news that the Obama administration is opposing the bills and so we chose to to stay online but with a banner on the site, but clearly the debate is far from over. The potential implications of this corporate and politically-motivated censorship upon academic freedom, especially digital scholarship, are simply staggering.

So many others have covered the issues around SOPA/PIPA so well (and my own understanding of the legislation is so comparatively tiny) that I won’t bother to rehash them but will link to some of the best below. Thanks to HASTACers Gerry Canavan for posting about SOPA last month and Alex Leavitt for today’s post about how SOPA opposition galvanized on Reddit. I highly recommend this 4-minute video that explains the legislation, including an important update at the end.

Link fest: