February 6, 2003
Test Spin: Crooked Fingers
| February 6, 2003
Saying that Crooked Fingers’ Eric Bachmann is the next Neil Diamond, Cat Stevens, or Bruce Springsteen may not be the most convincing selling point, but it should be. Those artists — one might call them the “Parents’ Trifecta” — have/had something distinctly mysterious in their voices. They sang and people felt something, equally because of what they were singing and how they sang it.
Now that the reference points are out of the way, however, it is Bachmann’s originality and brilliance that deserves attention, because for every ounce of timeliness there is a pound of unique nowness in Crooked Fingers’ music. For instance, on “You Threw A Spark” and “Sweet Marie” (Red Devil Dawn’s most seemingly jubilant tracks), Bachmann exercises his genius as an arranger, imbueing the songs with grand horn and string parts that subtly contrast the poetically bleak lyrics with the feel of a Mexican fiesta. Throughout the ten tracks, it seems Bachmann has a marvelous time being morose, as if he finds real beauty in melancholia and desperation. “Big Darkness” could pass as a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, as it explores a small town whose only comfort is in an approaching apocalypse (“And if the evening ever comes maybe it will set things right/ ’cause in the dark even the blind can feel a speck of light”).
“Disappear” and “Carrion Doves” prove that classical and country music can coexist, even in the same song. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Red Devil Dawn is that there isn’t a single dud; every song is captivating. So now we have one-third of our own trifecta.
Archived article by Ben Kupstas
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February 7, 2003
Recent increases in government regulation have some University officials worried that terrorism will soon claim another casualty — academic freedom. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act has created, in addition to the already existing categories of classified and unclassified information, a new category of “sensitive” information. This last category could potentially include many aspects of Cornell research and is proving to be ambiguous terrain for an institution that holds a tradition of academic openness as one of its guiding principles. “Cornell policy has always been that since we do not do classified research at Cornell, no agency that is sponsoring the research should be able to throttle the publication of that research,” said Stephen Johnson, director of government affairs. Sensitive The concern is that “sensitive” research may have to be reviewed before publication due to a policy of censorship called prior restraint. This policy conflicts directly with Cornell’s research policies. “It has been and will remain Cornell’s policy that we will not accept any contracts that require prior restraint but we do plan on holding discussions on voluntary restraint with faculty this year,” said Robert Richardson, vice provost for research. The government has already toyed with the idea of implementing prior restraint in areas that have previously fallen outside the realm of classified research. Last year, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) requested that a report it had commissioned on the safety of the American food supply not be published. Other investigators, including those at Cornell, doing unclassified research for the Department of Defense (DOD) were asked to submit their work for review prior to publication. However, the DOD’s request was overturned and all but an appendix of the USDA report was released. Further regulations may also try to seep into more unexpected areas of study. “An example is materials science, one of our big majors here,” Johnson said. “That is now being considered a sensitive area. Now that covers anything from materials in computer chips to the materials in cars.” Cornell plans to turn down a two-year $400,000 grant to study sexual assault and harassment in Cornell’s community of international students. The grant, awarded through the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Office, required that all findings be submitted to the agency twenty days prior to publication. “If they don’t approve the findings, then we can’t publish and we don’t accept that,” said Patsy Brannon, dean of the College of Human Ecology. The agency insists that the procedure is standard, but Brannon said she cannot ascertain why the department would want to approve the results. Many members of the academic community think that self-restraint or other forms of non-government restraint may provide a better solution. “In the areas of nuclear physics and information technology, particularly in cryptology, the communities have exercised voluntary restraint successfully for decades,” Richardson said. Articles like one that appeared this summer in the journal Science have raised doubts over the effectiveness of self-restraint. In the article, researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook demonstrated how they were able to synthesize a polio virus from materials they ordered in the mail and suggested that other pathogens such as smallpox or Ebola virus could likewise be made from scratch. Findings like these have spurred discussions in the academic and government communities regarding the publication of detailed material and how much information is appropriate in the disclosure of such findings. Richardson suggests that restraint might be exercised within each research community. “I think that there will be very sensible, broad discussions about where that line should be,” he said. “Of course, there may be freelancers who feel that it’s their job to act on their own, but the community will chastise those people who don’t comply to its standards of restraint.” The concern over prior restraint goes beyond just the violation of a long-standing University policy. There are additional concerns over misuse. “The fear is that the cloak of national security could be used inappropriately,” Johnson said. “For instance, maybe an agency wants to prevent something from being published because the findings do not reflect favorably on that agency or perhaps some bureaucrat might act in his or her best interest rather than in the best interest of the nation.” In addition to providing a foundation for prior restraint, the USA PATRIOT Act is creating issues of mobility for students, particularly graduate students, and faculty. “There were several students who were not allowed to return to the U.S. in the fall because they could not get through the various clearance procedures,” Johnson said. The international structure of science is also being challenged, according to Johnson. “Many people are unwilling to go abroad to present research findings because of the same fears,” he said. Johnson maintains that the University understands the need for national security and insists that Cornell is doing its part. Cornell has been involved in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) since before the Sept. 11 attacks. SEVIS is a tracking system for international students that requires colleges and universities to share information with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This ensures that those with student visas, like the ones carried by the Sept. 11 hijackers, are in fact enrolled in courses. The development of the system has been accelerated in recent months. New restrictions on the handling of so-called selected agents are also expected to impact the University in dramatic ways. “People who handle selected agents, certain pathogens or radioactive substances, will need to be investigated by the Department of Justice and that process might take up to three months. Right now the process is simply a self-declaration, but when that changes we are going to hit a crunch,” Richardson said. Richardson pointed out that one of Cornell’s research triumphs was determining the structure of anthrax in the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source particle accelerator. Further restrictions might hamper research that employs the use of other pathogens or radioactive materials. “We are an open university, so research resources have to be available to everyone. If people can’t do the research because, say, they happen to come from the wrong country, then that constitutes a violation of our basic principles,” Richardson said. Other institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conduct classified research at off-campus facilities in order to maintain academic freedom on their main campuses. However, Johnson says that the details of resolving such a system with Cornell’s policies are difficult. “The hard thing is that the nature of academia is open as a free-flow exchange of knowledge and all of these new considerations are being placed down on what has been a traditional framework,” he said. While the University is currently dealing with the repercussions of the PATRIOT Act, both Richardson and Johnson suspect further legislative challenges in the coming months. “I believe part of it is the PATRIOT Act, but another part seems to be a shift in the politica
l environment,” Brannon said. Whatever the cause, the administration says Cornell’s response will be firm and consistent. “The Cornell community will rigorously protect academic freedom and will make alternative arrangements elsewhere if necessary,” Richardson said. With Cornell receiving over $360 million last year in external funding from government agencies like the USDA and the DOD, maintaining the security of academic freedom in a time of elevated concern over national security will likely prove to be a delicate battle. Archived article by Philip Lane
February 7, 2003
After protesting a crow-shooting contest in Auburn, N.Y., animal rights activists Milo Polte ’03, Brian Pease ’00, Tim Slate ’02 and Laura Carver were arrested on misdemeanor charges of trespassing and interfering with the legal taking of wildlife last Saturday. Released on $100 bail each, they are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 22. The protesters played a recording of a crow “danger call” on a boom box as they drove around the property where the hunters were shooting. The recording of a crow supposedly warns other crows to leave the area. “They were absolutely in the process of harassing hunters,” said New York State Sergeant Kent Middleton. However, the protesters see the incident in a different light. “We did what we could to scare the crows away and prevent [the hunters] from shooting them,” Pease said. According to Pease, the protesters did not realize they were on private property and left shortly after being told they were trespassing. “The owner of the land asked us to leave [and] after a five-minute discussion, we did,” Polte added. New York State police officers later stopped the activists at a roadblock and arrested them, according to Polte. The protesters will contest the charges. “If people are out there shooting wildlife, we should be out there protecting wildlife. It’s a legitimate purpose to save the animals from being massacred,” Pease said. Polte is currently the webmaster for the Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense, while Pease and Slate are both former presidents of the organization. The Auburn crow shoot has been an annual event for three years, although this is the first time it has been publicized by the organizers. This year, more than 35 teams participated and shot 348 crows over the course of the weekend, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. Between 25,000 and 50,000 crows roost near Auburn. Participants in the competition contend that the crows are a public nuisance. “You don’t live in this town. You don’t know the problem with the crows,” said organizer and Auburn bar owner Lance Gummerson. “Our downtown is disgraced. The crows need to go.” However, the crow shoot may not even have a significant impact on the crow population, according to Prof. Charles Smith, natural resources. “It’s a misguided and uninformed attempt at using lethal control,” he said. “[The hunters] are treating symptoms, not causes. If they really want to get rid of the birds, they need to understand why they are there.” Opponents to the contest argue that the event promotes cruel and senseless killing. “It’s the blatant taking of life for one morning’s entertainment,” Polte said. On Sunday, 30 other opponents to the crow shooting also protested against the contest in front of the Auburn City Hall. Since hunting is banned within city limits, some dissenters placed birdseed at crow roosts around town to keep birds out of the woods. Despite the demonstration and boycott of his bar by protesters, Gummerson said the events over the weekend did not hurt his business. “My business is better than it’s ever been,” he said. The New York State Police again arrested Pease for interfering with the legal taking of wildlife on Sunday. This incident is not the first time Pease has been arrested for his involvement in animal rights protests. Last year, Pease was charged with commercial burglary, third-degree battery, criminal mischief, resisting arrest and fleeing arrest after participating in a protest against Stephens, Inc. in Conway, Ark. He was acquitted of all charges except criminal mischief, fleeing and resisting arrest. Although originally scheduled to serve 45 days in jail, his term was reduced to 30 days after an unusual incident. According to Pease, he fasted for his first several days behind bars, since the jail refused to serve him a vegan diet. Rather than change their meal plan, they made him a trustee, which allowed him access to the kitchen. As he helped an elderly female guard deliver food to the other prisoners, one of the prisoners violently attacked the guard. Pease pulled the other prisoner off and subdued him. “She thinks she would have died if I hadn’t been there,” Pease recounted. Pease has also participated in a number of other animal rights protests while at Cornell. Archived article by Shannon Brescher