Monday, August 24, 2020

Remembering The Bombing Of Sterling Hall A Half Century Ago

 A half century ago at 3:42 AM on Monday, August 24, 1970, the New Year's Gang set off an ammonium nitrate bomb in the back of a Ford pickup track next to Sterling Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.  They were aiming it at the Army Mathematics Research Center, then directed by my later father, J. Barkley Rosser [Sr.]. However, they were notoriously the Gang That Could Not Bomb Straight and hit the physics department instead, killing a physics post-doc, Robert Fassnacht, and injuring several other people, as well damaging buildings even blocks away, aside from the major damage to Sterling Hall itself.  

Of the gang, three would eventually be apprehended and serve time in jail: the two Armstrong brothers from the east side of Madison, sons of an Oscar Mayer plant worker, Karl, the group's leader who was caught first and served seven years, and his younger brother, Dwight, who served three years and is no longer alive, with David Fine of Baltimore also serving three years.  The fourth member, Leo Burt, remains at large.

Last October I wrote an 8-page essay reminiscing about the bombing that contains details both representing my peculiar perspective as well as some tidbits not widely public information.  I am willing to send it to anybody who requests it of me.  It contains six parts.

The first and longest part is about my relations with my parents, with a lot of information specifically about my late father.  We respected each other personally, but disagreed politically, although I never approved of violence and thus severely disapproved of the bombing, as well as some personal mistreatment my parents experienced.

The second part recounts my own experiences on the day of the bombing, which is short as they were unexceptional, especially compared to many other people then (I was nowhere near it when it happened).

The third part, also long as the first one, involves a more detailed analysis of the AMRC and issues surrounding it.  This includes that indeed people working there, certainly including my late father, did work of the value to the US military, with some of it being used in Vietnam, the main complaint of protesters who wanted the center shut down or at least moved off campus. However, I also note that mathematics has many uses, both good and bad, and that some of the math developed there is also used in economics, including in such beneficial areas as environmental economics.  It is easy to say that maybe there should be a "good" math research center not funded by the military, but in fact when the military funding disappeared later, none other was forthcoming and the center simply closed.

The fourth part reveals that the wrong person died in the bombing.  Fassnacht was in the lab because the wife of his professor, the late Bill Yen, demanded that Bill stay home for domestic reasons.  Bill was supposed to be in the lab, not the unfortunate Robert Fassnacht.

The fifth part involves a later event, a mitigation hearing held in the fall of 1973 after Karl Armstrong was captured.  He plead guilty, but the mitigation hearing was officially about his sentencing, although it ended up being essentially a trial of the whole war in Vietnam, with famous outside lawyers participating such as William Kunstler. I offered to testify, thinking the judge was not impressed by all this, but one of the local attorneys said this was not needed. However, in the end, the judge imposed the maximum sentence of 25 years, of which seven were served.  After getting out, Karl Armstrong for many years ran a fruit juice stand near campus, "Loose Juice," and I got to know him.

The final section recounts a banquet in July, 1989 associated with a conference of old UW radicals returned to town.  At the banquet, which I attended, Karl Armstrong appeared and delivered an eloquent and unequivocal apology for what he and his gang members did, ranging from to the Fassnacht family to the anti-war movement, which the bombing severely damaged. 

There is much more detail I am leaving out in the essay, but I conclude this by noting that we have seen some protesters in recent months engaging in violence.  This event needs to be remembered as a warning that it is easy for violence to get out of hand and go too far and damage the cause that is supposed to be serving.

Barkley Rosser

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another terrific remembrance.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

One recalls that ROTC offices, in the Winslow building at RPI (the oldest
building on the campus) were firebombed around the same date. No injuries.
Much unrest on US campuses in those times, as Nixon pursued Peace With Honor.

In other news, via Wikipedia... a small meteor may impact
the earth, probably over the Pacific, around Election Day.

2018 VP1 is an Apollo near-Earth asteroid roughly 7 feet in diameter. It has a 0.41% chance (1 in 240) of impacting Earth on 2 November 2020. ... nominal Earth approach is estimated to be roughly 260,000 miles. The line of variation (LOV) allows the asteroid to impact Earth or pass as far away as 2,300,000 miles. It is not categorized as a potentially hazardous object given the estimated size of 2–4 meters in diameter is smaller than the threshold for potentially hazardous objects which are estimated at more than 140 meters in diameter. An Earth-impact by this asteroid, assuming it is a common primitive chondrite, might rattle some windows after an airburst and/or drop pebble-sized meteorites on roof tops after dark flight. ...

(It is characterized as a potential 'bolide', which means air friction will
heat it up and it will explode, harmlessly, probably over the Pacific.)

Wikipedia: A bolide is an extremely bright meteor, especially one
that explodes in the atmosphere

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Let me note that if anybody wants a copy of my essay, please email me at rosserjb@jmu.edu and I shall send it to you.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

I would have simply sent people to my website, where I thought I had a copy of it up, but somehow it is not there right now.

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Fred C. Dobbs said...

Fed pledges to focus on low unemployment and tolerate higher inflation

The Federal Reserve, in a significant shift that could keep interest rates low for longer periods, said it would focus on keeping unemployment low and allow inflation to run slightly higher in good times.

The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell. announced the change in a speech on Thursday at the Kansas City Fed’s annual Jackson Hole symposium that was accompanied by an updated long-run statement describing the Fed’s policy strategy. He said the shifts would allow the gains of a strong economy to benefit a wide range of workers.

“Our revised statement emphasizes that maximum employment is a broad-based and inclusive goal,” Mr. Powell said in remarks prepared for delivery Thursday, and “this change reflects our appreciation for the benefits of a strong labor market, particularly for many in low- and moderate-income communities.”

The Fed had been raising rates as joblessness fell to avoid economic overheating that ended in breakaway inflation, but in recent years, price gains have been tepid. The changes are an explicit recognition that too low, rather than too high, inflation is the problem.

By emphasizing the importance of a strong labor market and underlining the Fed’s modesty in understanding how long, and how far, unemployment can fall, Mr. Powell and his colleagues used their updated framework to lay the groundwork for longer periods of low interest rates, which could translate into both long periods of cheap mortgages and business loans and stronger future job markets.

Mr. Powell, in explaining the changes, said that “with interest rates generally running closer to their effective lower bound even in good times, the Fed has less scope to support the economy during an economic downturn by simply cutting the federal funds rate.”

The result, he said, “can be worse economic outcomes in terms of both employment and price stability, with the costs of such outcomes likely falling hardest on those least able to bear them.”

Mr. Powell acknowledged that it might seem “counterintuitive that the Fed would want to push up inflation” which, in turn, raises prices. But he the trade-off was a less robust economy that did not deliver gains evenly.

“We are certainly mindful that higher prices for essential items, such as food, gasoline, and shelter, add to the burdens faced by many families, especially those struggling with lost jobs and incomes,” he said. “However, inflation that is persistently too low can pose serious risks to the economy.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Stocks rise after the Federal Reserve chair’s update

U.S. stocks edged higher on Thursday, as investors digested a speech by the Federal Reserve chair that signaled a looser approach to stimulating the economy. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

US economy plunged an annualized 31.7% in second quarter

via @seattletimes - August 27

BALTIMORE (AP) — The U.S. economy shrank at an alarming annual rate of 31.7% during the April-June quarter as it struggled under the weight of the viral pandemic, the government estimated Thursday. It was the sharpest quarterly drop on record.

The Commerce Department downgraded its earlier estimate of the U.S. gross domestic product last quarter, finding that the devastation was slightly less than the 32.9% annualized contraction it had estimated at the end of July. The previous worst quarterly drop since record-keeping began in 1947 was a 10% annualized loss in 1958.

Last quarter, businesses shuttered and millions of workers lost jobs as the world’s largest economy went into lockdown mode in what succeeded only fitfully in limiting the spread of reported viral infections. The U.S. economy fell an annualized 5% in the first three months of the year as the coronavirus began to make its presence felt in February and March.

A bounce-back in hiring as many businesses reopened suggested that the economy began to recover in June with third quarter growth estimated to be around 20% annualized. But economists say a full recovery remains far off given that the virus has yet to be contained and the government’s financial support has faded.

“As we approach the fall, we see four important risks for the economy: a failure to provide further fiscal stimulus, a second wave of COVID-19 infection during the flu season, major election uncertainty and rising trade tensions with China,” said Lydia Boussour, senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

Unemployment is still high at 10.2%, and roughly 1 million people are applying for jobless aid each week even as the amount of aid they receive has shrunk. Consumer confidence has tumbled. Though the stock market and home sales are surging, the broader economy shows signs of stalling, and millions face potential evictions from their homes.

The challenges reflect the unusual nature of the downturn. Many U.S. households have increased their savings and paid off debt—which could either signal a hesitancy to spend as they have in the past or pent-up demand that could be unleashed once the pandemic ends. ...

ilsm said...

Fred,

Winslow Bldg, offices of AF ROTC (Army?) when I was Freshman, sometime later moved into the Troy Armory. There was also a soils lab for the Civil Engineers. Looks like it is still used, built 1866.

I have fond memories of Corps Training days.

RPI was such a quiet campus.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(Tweet) Barack Obama @BarackObama

As people exercise their right to protest all across the
country––let the undeniable paths of our progress be a
guide going forward: peaceful, sustained protest;
strategic, committed organizing; and purposeful,
overwhelming participation at the ballot box.

----

The right to protest peacefully, under the
First Amendment, inevitably collides with
the right to bear arms under the Second.

ilsm said...

Fred,

How far do you think my 4x4 SUV 'mid sizedt' will drive through an antifa human road block before I lose traction? Assume 5 deep half social distancing.

I observe Obama, though youthful, is inured to Vietnam protest era propaganda/play with words/logic flaws that work on the useful idiot, the agreeable, the lazy, the gullible, and those suffering TDS.

Obama has a broad view of "peaceful".........

Denying the human rights of access and movement do not construe "peaceful". To say nothing of looting and arson.

Shouting "silence is violence" and demanding people confess to being Christian in restaurants in DC is not peaceful. Much less what Rand Paul and his escort endured leaving the White House. I am pretty sure these are right wing plants to make the Marxist insurgent look bad!

Yes, 2nd Amendment will be a thing soon enough! Kyle Rittenhouse of Illinois is an American hero!

Fred C. Dobbs said...

RealClear Polling - Battleground States (in New England)

New Hampshire

RCP Average ... 1/20 - 8/17 -- -- 51.7 42.0 Biden +9.7

St. Anselm .... 8/15 - 8/17 1042 RV 3.0 51 43 Biden +8
UNH ........... 7/16 - 7/28 1893 LV -- 53 40 Biden +13
NBC News/Marist 1/20 - 1/23 2223 RV 2.6 51 43 Biden +8

Maine

RCP Average ... 7/2 - 8/9 -- -- 49.8 38.3 Biden +11.5

Bangor Daily News7/28 - 8/9 500 RV -- 44 36 Biden +8
Quinnipiac .... 7/30 - 8/3 807 RV 3.5 52 37 Biden +15
Colby College . 7/18 - 6/24 888 LV 3.9 50 38 Biden +12
PPP (D) ....... 7/2 - 7/3 1022 RV 3.1 53 42 Biden +11

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump lags Biden in NH and Maine, new poll shows

via @bangordailynews - July 30

(This is from a month ago, so polls may have
improved for Trump over that time, fer sure.)

President Donald Trump is lagging Democratic challenger Vice President Joe Biden by large and nearly equal margins in both Maine and New Hampshire, according to a poll released Thursday.

A Granite State Panel survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center between July 16 and Tuesday of 1,893 likely general election voters in New Hampshire found that 53 percent would choose Biden with just over three months until the November election, compared to 40 percent for Trump.

The poll is the latest bad news for Trump in northern New England, and comes the same week as a similar Colby College poll conducted in Maine.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

One killed as Trump supporters, protesters clash in Portland

AP via @BostonGlobe - August 30

PORTLAND, Ore. — One person was shot and killed late Saturday in Portland, Oregon, as a large caravan of President Donald Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed in the streets, police said.

It wasn’t clear if the shooting was linked to fights that broke out as a caravan of about 600 vehicles was confronted by protesters in the city’s downtown.

An Associated Press freelance photographer heard three gunshots and then observed police medics working on the body of the victim, who appeared to be a white man. The freelancer said the man was wearing a hat bearing the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group whose members have frequently clashed with protesters in Portland in the past.

Police did not release any additional details and were at the scene investigating late Saturday.

“Portland Police officers heard sounds of gunfire from the area of Southeast 3rd Avenue and Southwest Alder Street. They responded and located a victim with a gunshot wound to the chest. Medical responded and determined that the victim was deceased,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement.

Portland has been the site of nightly protests for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Many of them end in vandalism and violence, and hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested by local and federal law enforcement since late May. The caravan arrived downtown just as a protest planned for Saturday was getting underway. Police made several arrests before the shooting and advised residents to avoid the city core.

The chaotic scene came two days after Trump invoked Portland as a liberal city overrun with violence in a speech at the Republican National Convention as part of his “law and order” re-election campaign theme. The caravan marked the third Saturday in a row that Trump supporters have rallied in the city.

Trump and other speakers at this week’s convention evoked a violent, dystopian future if Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden wins in November and pointed to Portland as a cautionary tale for what would be in store for Americans.

The pro-Trump rally’s organizer, who coordinated a similar caravan in Boise, Idaho, earlier in the week, said in a video posted on Twitter Saturday afternoon that attendees should only carry concealed weapons and the route was being kept secret for safety reasons.

The caravan had gathered earlier in the day at a suburban mall and drove as a group to the heart of Portland. As they arrived in the city, protesters attempted to stop them by standing in the street and blocking bridges.

Videos from the scene showed sporadic fighting, as well as Trump supporters firing paintball pellets at opponents and using bear spray as counter-protesters threw things at the Trump caravan.

The shooting happened shortly before 9 p.m. Pacific, several hours after the caravan began arriving in Portland. ...

ilsm said...

Fred,

Love the polling! Looks like Biden/Harris are a bit behind Hillary at this point with no bounce from the DNC wake played as convention.

The Democrat party has allowed itself to be dragged through the Marxist slime of BLM/antifa.

I remember 1968, only the Democrats then had a living candidate and were not as wed to SDS and that insurrection.

Harris raising bail money and donations for body armor!

The American patriot executed in Portland last night will be remembered and his death attributed to Biden/Harris. Portland death squad succeeded unlike the Kenosha criminals .

I have seen the vids! Read the indy journalists.

The Democrat press so much Marxist gas lighting and mis information.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Ilsm,

From what I've read, Biden/Harris
are well ahead of where Hillary
was 4 years ago, as far as NH
& ME are concerned. No question
that the Dem ticket is way ahead
in the rest of New England.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

I would agree that antifa people
are causing problems for Dems.
Could 'foreign interests' are
egging them on?

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Facing national unrest, Biden confronts both a challenge and an opportunity

NY Times - August 31

... Mr. Trump, who spent Sunday and Monday morning bashing the mayor of Portland on Twitter over the unrest there, plans to travel on Tuesday to Kenosha, where disturbances broke out after a white police officer shot and paralyzed a Black man.

Mr. Biden, for his part, released a statement Sunday on the Portland shooting in which he charged Mr. Trump with fomenting the very unrest that the president is trying to blame Mr. Biden and other Democrats for.

“I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same,” Mr. Biden wrote. “It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight. What does President Trump think will happen when he continues to insist on fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters?” ...