Civil Liberties

Perhaps because of the large number of outspoken and thoughtful people in our community, we have often found ourselves at ground zero in battles over civil liberties. In the 1980's Chapel Hill elected the first openly-gay elected official in the state, but Carrboro bested that by electing North Carolina’s first out mayor a decade later.

More recently, Chapel Hill grappled with free speech issues in the wake of 9/11, approved and then dismantled red light cameras in 2003-4, and was challenged by fundamentalists over support for gay marriage in 2005.

Paul Jones in the N&O

Paul Jones, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill, a guest poster and frequent commentor on OrangePolitics, and also a "polymath" (who knew?) is interviewed by John Murawski of the News & Observer on the implications of IBM's recent decision to release 500 software patents to the public.

Q:IBM this week gave open-source users access to 500 software patents. Why is this significant?

A:It removes the fear of ever being sued for violating those over-broad patents.

If nothing else, they remove barriers that keep individuals and groups from being more creative and productive.

In the larger scheme, it signals that some things are wrong with the copyright-and-patent system. Recent developments in the past, say, 25 years have gone in the direction that is counter to creativity and production.

One of the open things about open source and sharing communities is that they are greater than local. They allow people to be creative across time, space and culture.

What happens when the police get "clever"

Guest Post by Eric Muller, crossposted from Is That Legal?

There's much talk here in Chapel Hill about a judge's recent decision to throw out the confession of Andrew Dalzell to the murder of Deborah Leigh Key--a murder that had gone unsolved for nearly eight years.

Dalzell, who had long been a suspect in the murder, was arrested in another part of the state for obtaining property by false pretenses. Dalzell was not immediately read his Miranda rights. In preparation for the ride back to the Chapel Hill area (Carrboro, for you local folk), Carrboro police officers prepared a fake arrest warrant for the murder and left it on the seat next to Dalzell so that he could see it. They also got a piece of the District Attorney's stationery (with the D.A.'s consent) and concocted a phony letter in which the District Attorney said he was seeking the death penalty for Key's murder. An officer read Dalzell the bogus letter during the ride back to Carrboro.

News roundup

Good news: The end of the Bell Award at UNC. Congrats to Yonni Chapman and others who have been working on this for years!

Bad news: Carrboro cops lie and cheat to catch accused murderer. Is it OK if he's really guilty?

More bad news: New landlord evicts dozens of poor latino families right before Christmas. Now that's real christian of him.

Talk amongst yourselves, I'm going on vacation...

Is your vote counted?

Guest Post by Paul Jones

Christian Stallberg, who founded the local Computer Professional for Social Responsibility chapter, sends this announcement:

Is Your Vote Counted?
Panel Presentation and Community Speak-Out on the Question of Voter Integrity
Wednesday, December 8, 2004 7-9pm
Chapel Hill Town Hall, 306 North Columbia St.

Introduction by Joyce McCloy, Founder, NC Coalition for Verified Voting

David Price, US Congressman: 4th District

David Allen, Systems Engineer, publisher and tech consultant "Black Box Voting:
Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century"

Justin Moore, Computer Scientist, member National Committee for Voting Integrity

Lewis Pitts, Legal Aid Attorney, Advocates for Children's Services

Moderator, Christian Stalberg, founder, RTP Chapter of Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility

More media (im)morality

Following right on the heels of WUNC bowing to the fear of government punishment of acknowledging reproductive rights (which followed the Sinclair and Private Ryan flaps), CBS and NBC are refusing to air an ad by the United Church of Christ because it fails to condemn homosexuality.

Again, they use the same argument as WUNC: it's too "controversial." Again, they are shut down not for advocating but simply stating their own mission in commonly-understood terms. Our local UCC has taken the lead in condemning this cowardly abdication of media responsibility. Here is their press release:

Turned Away



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