Stanford University’s statement on Dr. Scott Atlas

Scott Atlas is Donald Trump’s leading adviser on COVID-19.

He is a neuroradiologist. In other words, he specializes in “the diagnoses and treatment of brain, spinal chord, head and neck, and vascular lesions using x-rays, magnetic fields, radio waves, and ultrasound.”

Scott Atlas is not an infectious disease expert. In other words, he is NOT an expert in the “diagnosis and treatment of diseases caused by microorganisms, including bacteria, virus, fungi and parasites.”

This weekend, after Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer announced COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants, casinos, bowling alleys, and schools, Atlas tweeted: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.” (It appears Atlas is also an activist, political commentator, revolutionary, and perhaps an inciter of violence).

Yesterday the editorial board of The Washington Post called for his immediate firing.

Atlas current serves as a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a think tank affiliated with Stanford University.

Yesterday Stanford issues this statement:

The university has been asked to comment on recent statements made by Dr. Scott Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who is on leave of absence from that position.

Stanford’s position on managing the pandemic in our community is clear.  We support using masks, social distancing, and conducting surveillance and diagnostic testing.  We also believe in the importance of strictly following the guidance of local and state health authorities.

Dr. Atlas has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic. Dr. Atlas’s statements reflect his personal views, not those of the Hoover Institution or the university.

Now it looks like the Republican members of the Michigan legislature want to impeach Whitmer.

The Gretchen Whitmer plot in historical context

We wrote about the plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer here. Kathleen Belew, an expert on white supremacy and the author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, places this plot in some historical context.

Here is a taste of her piece at The Washington Post:

FBI agents have disrupted and stopped what they say was a conspiracy by militia movement members to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). They discussed arson of her vacation home and other targets and kidnapping her for “trial.”

This isn’t just a one-off event or the work of a few mad actors — it’s part of a rising tide of white power activity, one that poses an imminent danger to American democracy. The Department of Homeland Security’s threat assessment report, released earlier this week after a long wait, made that clear: White power movement violence and affiliated extremism is, by far, the greatest terrorist threat to our nation.

Not only does this kind of extremist violence outstrip any violence carried out by what President Trump has referred to as “antifa and the left,” but white power violence now also exceeds the threat of radical Islamist terror. The DHS assessment makes clear that “2019 was the most lethal year for extremism in the United States since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.”

That bombing, the largest deliberate mass casualty on mainland American soil between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, is still not well understood by Americans. People still think of it as the work of lone wolves or a few bad apples. But the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people — including 19 young children — was the work of the white power movement, a coordinated social network that brought together Klansmen, neo-Nazis, skinheads, militiamen, radical tax resisters, separatists and others in outright war on the federal government. The evidence of the bombing as part of this movement is extensive and irrefutable.

Read the rest here.

Trump continues to inspire the deplorables

Donald Trump gives credibility to some of the worst elements in our society. Hillary Clinton was right. Many of his followers are indeed “deplorable.” In fact, “deplorable” is not a strong enough word here.

Remember this tweet:

If you don’t remember, read this for some context.

Well it appears that some people took Trump’s tweet seriously. As you may have heard, the FBI stopped a plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. On June 6, 2020, fifteen people from several states gathered in Dublin, Ohio. They were present to discuss how state governors and governments were taking away their liberties by temporarily closing down their respective economies. Those in the group discussed murdering a sitting governor and decided to reach out to a Michigan based militia group for help.

The leader of the Dublin, Ohio group met with the leader of the Michigan militia group several times during June 2020. They met at the militia leader’s Grand Rapids business. At one of these meetings, they set-up a plan to recruit 200 men to storm the Capitol in Lansing and “take hostages,” including Whitmer. They planned to do this some time before the November elections.

On June 20, the group met in the basement of this Grand Rapids business, “which was accessed through a trap door hidden under a rug on the main floor.” All cell phones were kept in a box on the main floor. They planned to use “Molotov cocktails” to destroy police vehicles who might try to stop their plans. They planned to meet again for “firearms and tactical training.”

On June 25, those involved in the plot live-streamed a video on Facebook complaining about the closing of gyms in Michigan due to COVID-19. They called Whitmer a “tyrant bitch” and stated, “I don’t know boys, we gotta do something. You guys link with me in our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do.”

At a meeting on June 28, the leaders of the group told people to leave the meeting if they were “not willing to participate in attacks against the government and in kidnapping politicians.”

On the weekend of July 10-12, the group participated in firearms training and combat drills in Cambria, Wisconsin. During this weekend they built an “improvised explosive device” using black power, balloon, a fuse, and BBs “for shrapnel.”

On July 18, 2020, at a meeting in Ohio, the group discussed attacking Michigan State Police facilities and shooting-up Whitmer’s vacation home in northwestern Michigan.

On July 24, 2020, the group discussed making a “cake” and sending it to Whitmer at her Lansing office. One of the members wrote, “In all honest right now…I just wanna make the world glow, dude…That’s what it’s gonna take for us to take it back, we’re just gonna have to everything’s gonna have to be annihilated man. We’re gonna topple it all dude.”

On July 27, 2020, back at the Grand Rapids business, they concluded that the “best opportunity to abduct Governor Whitmer would be when she was arriving at, or leaving, either her personal vacation home or the Governor’s official summer residence.” One of the leaders of the group described this as “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f—n ‘ Governor. Just grad the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude–it’s over.” After abducting the governor they planned to move her to a secure location in Wisconsin for “trial.”

On July 28, 2020, the leader of the group wrote the following on a private Facebook page; “We about to be busy ladies and gentleman…This is where the Patriot shows up. Sacrifices his time, money, blood sweat and tears…it starts now so get f—ing prepared!!”

On August 9, 2020, the group was in Munith, Michigan for more tactical training. They talked about gathering more information about Whitmer’s home in Lansing and destroying her boat. In an encrypted group chat, one of the leaders said, “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her…at this point. F–k it.” He added, “I mean…f–k, catch her walking into the building and act like a passer-by and fixing dome her then yourself whoever does it.” In a follow-up chat, another member of the group wrote, “OK sounds good I’m in for anything as long as its well planned.”

On August 23, the group discussed surveilling Whitmer’s vacation home. One of the members spent $4000 on a “helmet and night-vision goggles.”

On August 29, the group conducted surveillance on Whitmer’s home. They used a cell phone to find the house, took photographs and video, and planned to watch the house from the water the following day. One of the leaders said, “We ain’t gonna let ’em burn our f—n’ state down. I don’t give a f–k if there’s only 20 or 30 of us, dude, we’ll go out there and use deadly force.”

On August 30, the group discussed destroying a bridge leading to Whitmer’s vacation house to make it more difficult for the police to respond. The group also had a homemade map identifying the nearest police departments.

On September 12-13, the group met in Luther, Michigan to build bombs using black powder, pennies, and electrical tape. On the night of September 12 they drove from Luther to Whitmer’s northern Michigan vacation home. On the way they inspected the highway bridge they hoped to detonate.

Upon their return to Luther, one of the leaders asked the group, “Everybody down with what’s going on?.” Another member replied, “Oh no, we’re not kidnapping, that’s not what we’re doing.” Another voice added “No children!…We’re adult napping.” Another member added, “Kidnapping, arson, death, I don’t care.”

Again, read the entire report here.

Last night Whitmer appeared on Chris Cuomo’s CNN programs:

Yesterday Trump responded to the foiled plot shortly after Whitmer appeared on Chris Cuomo’s show on CNN.

Almost immediately following the interview Trump tweeted:

The president claims that he does not tolerate violence, but everything about these tweets encourage violent behavior.

I do not know how anyone can deny that Trump encourages domestic terrorism and is partially responsible for this threat to Whitmer’s life.

Court evangelical social media is silent today. Not even the Falkirk crowd is bringing this up.

Meanwhile, the White House is saying Whitmer is “sowing division.”

Majority of Americans Disapprove of Trump’s Handling of the Coronavirus Pandemic; Support Their Governors

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81% of New York residents approve of  Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus

According to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll:

  • 43% of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the coronavirus. 56% disapprove.
  • 71% of Americans approve of how their state’s governor is handling the coronavirus. 27% disapprove
  • 42% of Americans believe that Trump is doing enough to ensure more people can return to work safely. 57% believe he is not doing enough.
  • 69% of Americans believe that their state’s governor is doing enough to ensure more people can return to work safely. 31% believe that their state’s governor is not doing enough.
  • 84% of Americans believe that their governor is either lifting of stay-at-home restrictions too quickly (28%) or handling the lifting of stay-at-home activities in a fashion that is “about right” (56%).
  • 74% of Americans believe that “The U.S. should keep trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus, even if that means keeping many businesses closed.”
  • How are  laid-off workers and those who leave home to go to work finding aid: 61% are getting a relief payment or check from the federal government. (38% have not yet received such aid). 26% are getting help from their families.  23% are getting unemployment assistance. 14% are getting food stamps. Only 6% is getting  help from a charity or religious group.

Governors: (I have added the percentage of votes these governors received in the last gubernatorial election).

Some conclusions:

  1. People trust their governors more than they trust Trump
  2. Most Americans are getting relief from the federal government.  Very few are getting relief from churches and charities.
  3. Most Americans would rather stay-at-home longer if “opening-up” will cause continued spread of the virus.
  4. The governors Trump has recently criticized (Whitmer and Wolf especially) have huge support among the people of their states.
  5. Most governors (with the exceptions of Abbott and Kemp) have approval ratings well-above the percentage of votes they received in their last election victory.  I know this is not a perfect comparison, but it does seem to suggest that these governors are winning the support of residents who did not vote for them in the last gubernatorial election.

Back in the Zoo: “Heil Whitmer?”

Heil Whitmer

Annie Thorn is a sophomore history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this dispatch, Annie writes about the coronavirus protests in her home state–JF

A woman donning blue jeans, a puffy jacket and sunglasses stood proudly on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol last Wednesday. In gloved hands she held a poster painted with the phrase “HEIL WITMER” in red and black letters. A crimson swastika took a prominent place on the upper right-hand corner of the sign. Another poster, this time taped to the back of someone’s black pick-up truck, also bore Nazi imagery. This one had a photo-shopped image of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, toothbrush mustache and all, in a Hitler salute with a Nazi flag flying behind her shoulder. In bold white letters the bottom of the sign read, “AMERICAN FLAGS ARE NOT ESSENTIAL ITEMS.”

Frustrated with new stay-at-home restrictions, the individuals who crafted these signs were some of a few thousand Michiganders who traveled to Lansing last week for “Operation Gridlock.” In a lot of ways, I can empathize with their frustration. I like having the freedom to go where I please, when I please, for whatever reason I wish. I don’t like being stuck at home, unable to go to school or church or my favorite restaurant. There is nothing wrong with protesting (safely), voicing your opinions, and holding leaders accountable for their actions; in fact, I have been to a few protests myself in the past. There is nothing wrong with being frustrated, or wanting to go back to work. But equating Gretchen Whitmer and her stay-at-home order with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich takes things much too far. They are not the same.

I’m no expert on Nazi Germany, but I know enough from my “History of Modern Europe” class that our current suffering in no way compares to that of Jews living under the Third Reich. When Hitler ruled Germany, Jews lost their citizenship under the Nuremberg laws. They lived in ghettos and starved to death in the streets. Millions more were sent to Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, and several other concentration camps where they were immediately gassed or forced into hard labor. Under Hitler’s discretion, the Third Reich exterminated over six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of other individuals in an attempt to establish the Aryan race. Gretchen Whitmer is not Adolf Hitler. Some may not like her or agree with her, but to equate her to a fascist is inaccurate and callous. 

At the same time, though, I am well aware that President Trump has also been caricatured as a Nazi time after time. Before his inauguration back in 2017 and during his impeachment this past year, scores of signs, social media posts, and opinion pieces compared Trump to Adolf Hitler. And yet, since the election of President Trump in 2016, most Americans have not had to re-live the Holocaust. Some may not like him or agree with him, but to equate President Trump to a fascist is also inaccurate and callous.

As a student of history, I can’t help seeing the present through the lens of the past. We historians do not typically wear rose-colored glasses, but we do carry flashlights. We seek to illuminate, to expose, and to make known. As we step into the shoes of those who lived in the past, we try our noble best to shed light on the path we walk in the present. It is our job, and it is our duty. And I will complete it with honor in the years to come.

This is a “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” moment

Whitmer help

Jeff Kowalsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Above is a picture of some of the men protesting at the Michigan state Capitol in Lansing.  Yes, you do see machine guns.

Michigan mayor Gretchen Whitmer will not open the state to business yet and continues to stand behind her stay-at-home order in the midst of the protesters call to “lock her up.” Whitmer is trying to save lives. But some people in Michigan believe that their rights are more important. They seem to be defending their “right” to die from the coronavirus.

I am guessing many of these protesters would say that they are Christians. But Christian faith teaches that we must submit our own interests–as a mark of our kindness and love of neighbor–with the needs and suffering of others. Jesus is our model here.

As I have written before, there is also a secular political tradition–it is called civic humanism–which calls the citizens of a republic to occasionally sacrifice self-interest for the public good. The founding fathers of the United States, many of whom wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, called this “virtue.”

It does not look like the protesting crowds are very large. Most residents of Michigan appear to be obeying Whitmer’s order. But what if such protests degenerate into a riot? What if these men with guns stormed the Capitol building or tried to depose the governor by force? It would seem at a moment like this, Whitmer (or any governor for that matter) might need military help from the federal government to protect her. Would she get such help from a U.S. president who is encouraging the protesters?:

Trump is not just encouraging protests in Michigan. In Virginia, he is connecting his call to protest with guns:

And let’s not forget the political angle here. Whitmer is a Democrat. Michigan is a battleground state that Trump desperately needs to win in November.

There is also an anti-intellectual/anti-science dimension to these protests. Andrew Sullivan’s captures this well in a tweet covering protests in Texas:

Yes, you heard them correctly. They are chanting “Fire Fauci”–a reference to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the lead scientist on the White House coronavirus task force.

Whitmer deserves our support and prayers right now. So do all of the governors–Democrat and Republican– trying to lead their states in this time of crisis. Most of them are trying to save lives.

As for the protesters, they also need our prayers.  Father forgive them.

And where are all of Trump’s evangelical supporters? Trump has announced he will be watching the church service tomorrow at Rev. Jack Graham‘s Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas:

I am not a fan of politics in the pulpit. But sometimes the church must speak out–either directly or indirectly–against a President who is fomenting armed rebellion. (These court evangelicals seem to love Romans 13. Does it apply to governors as well?). Jack Graham has the ear and eyes of the president tomorrow morning. How will he respond?

ADDENDUM (Sunday, April 19, 2020 at 1:15pm):  Apparently some folks are upset because I have said that these men are carrying machine guns.  I apologize for the confusion.  They look like machine guns to me, but I don’t know anything about guns.  But those who are criticizing me for getting the model of gun wrong are missing the point.

Back in the Zoo: Coronavirus Diary

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The sunsets have been particularly beautiful here since quarantine started. Perhaps I’m just noticing them more now, or perhaps God knows I often need to be reminded how capable he is of turning darkness into light.

Annie Thorn is a sophomore history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this dispatch, Annie shares some thoughts from her coronavirus diary–JF

If I have a history classroom of my own in a few years, I’m sure I will teach my students about the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020. For while the virus is consuming virtually every part of our lives right now, soon enough it will be a part of our history. Soon enough students, teachers, and historians will look back on our Facebook posts, television advertisements, and journals to speculate what it was like to live through it all. I’ve started collecting primary sources to use in my classroom someday, and have even written a few diary entries of my own. If you would like to help future historians, future history teachers, and future students, I suggest keeping a journal, a diary, anything that will help them step into your shoes and see the world through your eyes.

Professor Fea has posted a couple coronavirus diary entries, so I thought I’d give it a go. Here’s my diary entry from yesterday, April 14, 2020:

It’s been a little over three weeks since Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued her shelter-in-place order for the state of Michigan. I’m becoming numb to it all in some ways, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I used to obsessively check Michigan’s case count multiple times a day, my anxiety heightening as the virus crept closer and closer to my hometown. Three weeks ago, 200 new cases in a day caused a panic. Last week there were 200 deaths in one day in my state and I kind of just numbly accepted that this is the way the world is right now.

I’ve been trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, as much as I can during this strange time. I get up at 6 A.M. and go to sleep around 10 P.M., just like I did when I was still at Messiah College. Before my first Zoom session of the day I try to do an hour and a half or so of work for this job. All of my Professors have been using video chat instead of pre-recorded lectures, so my class schedule has stayed pretty much the same too. My boyfriend and I still Skype every Friday and Sunday, just like we do when we’re nine hours apart. I can’t say all couples are listening to social distancing guidelines right now, but the ones that are have certainly been facing new challenges they never thought they would have to deal with. Nolan and I are frustrated we can’t see each other, but we realize that over a year of long-distance has left us surprisingly prepared to face a global pandemic.

A few new habits have made their way into my life too. My family has started “supporting local businesses”–that is, ordering takeout from local restaurants–once a week on Saturdays. Since I no longer have access to a gym, I’ve started running outside instead of on the treadmill. It’s more challenging to run on hills and in all kinds of weather, rather than on a flat conveyor belt in the temperate climate of the Falcon Fitness Center, but running is especially comforting for me right now. It reminds me that every breath is a gift, and to be thankful that I have healthy lungs with air flowing through them. I’m also trying to text people more often, usually with a song, a few words of encouragement, or a couple verses from scripture. It isn’t much, but I know from personal experience that a simple check-in or a few positive words can go a long way.

Quarantine brings out the creativity in all of us. We pick up new hobbies, and come back to old ones. We discover new ways to keep in touch with our friends, even when we can’t be physically together. My Young Life team has found several creative ways to use Zoom in order to stay connected with our students. We had a scavenger hunt, a talent show, an area-wide trivia match, and we’re even in the process of planning a virtual Bingo tournament for next week. Last weekend my parents tried to find a way to play Euchre over video chat with my brother and his girlfriend. I see families building blanket forts, hosting movie marathons, and competing in kahoot tournaments. And not only that, musicians have been giving free, live concerts over social media, churches are streaming their worship services, and Tom Hanks even hosted Saturday Night Live from his home last weekend.

For the first time in several weeks, it seems like there might be an end in sight. Some speculate that the United States has passed the virus’s peak. Gretchen Whitmer cautiously told Michiganders yesterday that they’re starting to see the curve flatten and the case total stabilize. We don’t know when the end to all this will come, or even what an “end” would entail, but we sense that it’s there somewhere. My family and I are continuing to press into the Lord, to continuously remind ourselves that He is in control and somehow, some way will use it all for His glory. So now we wait, in this period of forced rest, for the world to go back to normal. What that “normal” will be, I’m still not so sure.

Michigan Governor: Medical vendors are “being told not to send stuff to Michigan”

Whitmer

If Whitmer is right, and I have no reason to believe that she is not right, this is immoral.

Here is WWJ News (Detroit):

After President Donald Trump issued scathing comments about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying she’s “not stepping up,” and “doesn’t know what’s going on,” she told WWJ 950 the state is having trouble getting the equipment they need to fight the novel coronavirus.

“What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said live on air. “It’s really concerning, I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

The other stuff was Trump speaking with Sean Hannity on FOX News about Whitmer, a Democrat who has said very pointed things about the federal government’s lack of coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis. Trump said of Whitmer, “She is a new governor, and it’s not been pleasant … “We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor. You know who I’m talking about — from Michigan. We don’t like to see the complaints.” 

Michigan’s request for disaster assistance has not yet been approved by the White House, and Trump told Hannity he’s still weighing it.

“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot. Now, she wants a declaration of emergency, and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that. But Michigan is a very important state. I love the people of Michigan.”

In her public addresses closing schools, bars and restaurants, and issuing a shelter in place order, Whitmer has complained about the federal’s government lack of organization and state assistance, but she told WWJ she has never personally attacked the president.

“It’s very distressing,” she said about Trump’s attack, noting that she was only one of several governors who noted “the federal preparation was concerning.”

But she apparently struck a nerve with the president. And now the question is whether the leader of the free world could possibly take it out on medical professionals, patients and communities who desperately need help.

“I’ve been uniquely singled out,” Whitmer said. “I don’t go into personal attacks, I don’t have time for that, I don’t have energy for that, frankly. All of our focus has to be on COVID-19.”

Read the rest here.