A general view of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline on July 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
My family and my company are leaving California
by Ben Shapiro
My parents moved to California four decades ago. I grew up here. For 33 of the 36 years I’ve spent on this planet, I’ve lived here. I was born at St. Joseph’s in Burbank; I attended elementary school at Edison Elementary; I went to college at UCLA. I co-founded a major media company here, with 75 employees in Los Angeles. I met my wife here; all three of my kids are native Californians.
This is the most beautiful state in the country. The climate is incredible. The scenery is amazing. The people are generally warm, and there’s an enormous amount to do.
And we’re leaving.
We’re leaving because all the benefits of California have steadily eroded — and then suddenly collapsed. Meanwhile, all the costs of California have steadily increased — and then suddenly skyrocketed. It can be difficult to spot the incremental encroachment of a terrible disease, but once the final ravages set in, it becomes obvious that the illness is fatal. So, too, with California, where bad governance has turned a would-be paradise into a burgeoning dystopia.
When my family moved to North Hollywood, I was 11. We lived in a safe, clean suburb. Yes, Los Angeles had serious crime and homelessness problems, but those were problems relegated to pockets of the city — problems that, with good governance, we thought could eventually be healed. Instead, the government allowed those problems to metastasize. As of 2011, Los Angeles County counted less than 40,000 homeless; as of 2020, that number had skyrocketed to 66,000. Suburban areas have become the sites of homeless encampments. Nearly every city underpass hosts a tent city; the city, in its kindness, has put out port-a-potties to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 spread.
Police are forbidden in most cases from either moving transients or even moving their garbage. Nearly every public space in Los Angeles has become a repository for open waste, needles and trash. The most beautiful areas of Los Angeles, from Santa Monica beach to my suburb, have become wrecks. My children have personally witnessed drug use, public urination and public nudity. Looters were allowed free reign in the middle of the city during the Black Lives Matter riots; Rodeo Drive was closed at 1 p.m., and citizens were curfewed at 6 p.m.
To combat these trends, local and state governments have gamed the statistics, reclassifying offenses and letting prisoners go free. Meanwhile, the police have become targets for public ire. In July, the city of Los Angeles slashed police funding, cutting the force to its lowest levels in over a decade.
At the same time, taxes have risen. California’s top marginal income tax rate is now 13.3%; legislators want to raise it to 16.8%. California is also home to a 7.25% sales tax, a 50-cent gas tax and a bevy of other taxes that drain the wallet and burden business. California has the worst regulatory climate in America, according to CEO Magazine’s survey of 650 CEOs. The public-sector unions essentially make public policy, running up the debt while providing fewer and fewer actual services. California’s public education system is a massive failure, and even its once-great colleges are now burdened by the stupidities of political correctness, including an unwillingness to use standardized testing.
And still, the state legislature is dominated by Democrats. California is not on a trajectory toward recovery; it is on a trajectory toward oblivion. Taxpayers are moving out — now including my family and my company. In 2019, before the pandemic and the widespread rioting and looting, outmigration jumped 38%, rising for the seventh straight year. That number will increase again this year.
I want my kids to grow up safe. I want them to grow up in a community with a future, with more freedom and safety than I grew up with. California makes that impossible. So, goodbye, Golden State. Thanks for the memories.
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RFKjr. is hard to listen to because of his unfortunate spasmodic dysphonia, but he has some great information. So be patient.[embedded content]
1. Immanuel Studied Medicine in Nigeria & Has Practiced Medicine in Texas & Louisiana
Immanuel studied medicine at the University of Calabar in Calabar in southeastern Nigeria. Immanuel attended the school between 1984 and 1990. According to listings on the U.S. News & World Report website of Immanuel’s background that were available on the morning of July 28, she completed her residency in pediatrics at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. The listings appeared to have been removed from the site by late morning on July 28. A Nigerian news article indicated that Immanuel interned under Dr. Babatunde Dosu, a Dallas-based Nigerian pediatrician. It also stated that she holds medical licenses in Texas, Louisiana, and Kentucky.
Since October 2019, Immanuel has been a physician at the Rehoboth Medical Center in Houston. In November 1998, Immanuel began working as a pediatrician at Southern Pediatric Clinic in Alexandria, Louisiana. She is sometimes listed as a physician with the last name Immanuel (Gwandiku-Ambe).
In videos of her speech at the July 27 summit in Washington, D.C., Immanuel introduced herself: “I’m Dr. Stella Immanuel. I’m a primary care physician in Houston, Texas. I went to medical school in West Africa, Nigeria, where I took care of malaria patients, treated them with hydroxychloroquine and stuff like that. So I’m used to these medications.”
2. She Is a Minister Who Founded Fire Power Ministries & Frequently Posts About Her Faith
A lengthy bio on Immanuel’s Details section on Facebook calls the doctor a “prophet of God to the nations.” One sentence in the profile reads, “Her attitude toward demonic forces has been described as cut-throat, a warrior to the core.” Immanuel is also a “wealth transfer coach.” Immanuel believes “you can be saved anointed, firebrand and wealthy too.” The Fire Power Ministry website indicates that Immanuel is a “true daughter of Dr. D.K. Olukoya of Mountain of Fire and Miracles ministries.”
The Facebook bio continues, “Dr. Stella, has established a Christian resource center which supplies books, videos, CDs & other teaching materials to residents in her birthplace of Bali, Cameroon.” Immanuel is also credited with “crusades,” health fairs, raising money for orphanages, providing funding for small businesses, and being the host of a radio and television show, Fire Power. The bio opens with, “I shoot first and ask questions later” and ends with Immanuel’s favorite quotation, “Lord teach my hands to war and my fingers to fight.”
As the Daily Beast pointed out, some of Immanuel’s sermons posted to her website have strange medical claims, including one in which she claims that certain medical issues like endometriosis, cysts, infertility, and impotence are the result of sex with “spirit husbands” and “spirit wives,” which Immanuel described as having sex in dreams with witches and demons.
“We call them all kinds of names —endometriosis, we call them molar pregnancies, we call them fibroids, we call them cysts, but most of them are evil deposits from the spirit husband,” she said.
Immanuel has also written several books about faith in a series called “The Occupying Force Series,” which includes titles such as Keys to Effective Spiritual Warfare and I Trust God As My Commander in Chief.
3. She Has Previously Advocated for the Use of Hydroxychloroquine & Has Publicly Supported Trump
Hydroxychloroquine works if given early. President Trump, we are with you. Many of us doctors know it and have used it. Don’t stop speaking up for us. @realDonaldTrump @MarkMeadows @TuckerCarlson @IngrahamAngle @DonaldJTrumpJr @POTUS @VP @GovMikeHuckabee @PastorBroden
On July 27, Immanuel’s remarks on the use of hydroxychloroquine went viral and clips of her speaking were shared and retweeted by President Donald Trump as well as Donald Trump Jr. However, Immanuel has been a vocal supporter of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 patients for months now, posting about it frequently on her social media pages. On May 21, she wrote, “I treat patients with covid19 and Hydroxychloroquine with zinc works. They get better in 24 hours. I have not lost a patient yet. My family and I take it for prevention. Many doctors and nurses take it.”
Immanuel has posted her support for Trump. In the wake of Trump’s acquittal during the 2020 impeachment trial, Immanuel posted a photo of Trump with the caption, “Acquitted.” Trump has been advocating the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus since April 2020. In May 2020, the president said he had been taking the drug.
In April, Immanuel wrote a piece in Physician Outlook in which she promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine and questioned why its use had been discouraged. She wrote, “For political reasons, licensed physicians will take to the media to scare the public from taking something that could potentially help them.”
4. She Has Previously Taken Controversial Public Positions Regarding Her Faith & Her Stance Against Homosexuality
The Fire Power Ministries’ website “Beliefs” section states they are against “unmarried couples living together, homosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, etc.”
Immanuel has listed a “Deliverance Prayer against Homosexuality and Sexual Perversion” on her website. She also posted through her Fire Power Ministries Facebook page in December 2016 about her belief that “practicing and celebrating [homosexuality] will take you to hell.”
On February 13, Immanuel reposted a post from Dr. Luana Stines on Facebook. The photo showed former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg embracing his husband, Chasten. The post begins with the words, “Has the MORAL COMPASS of America tipped its scale so far into the pit of hell that homosexuality has become the norm?” Another section of the post reads, “If we don’t STAND AGAINST SUCH VILE WICKEDNESS, sodomy will overtake the next generation!”
5. She Is a Mother & Her Daughter Pursued Global Health & Nutrition in University
Mima Fondong in a Baylor University photo.
Immanuel’s daughter, Mima Fondong, is a graduate of Baylor University and the University of Westminster in London. According to her LinkedIn page, Fondong is based in Houston, Texas. A Rotary Club newsletter from Shreveport, Louisiana, says that Fondong received a $26,000 scholarship to study in London, where she studied global health and nutrition with a focus on disease prevention and treatment.
In an interview with Baylor University, Fondong said she grew up surrounded by people with careers in health care and wanted to be a doctor from a young age. She said, “What sealed the deal for my attending Baylor was when I visited the University toward the end of my senior year in high school. After arriving on campus and being greeted with an endless supply of smiles, hospitality, and most importantly, the apparent love of Jesus Christ, immediately I knew Baylor was where I belong. I could not picture myself at any other university.”
During her time at Baylor, Fondong was a contestant in the school’s Miss Green and Gold pageant. She was also the president of the African Student Association, the Baylor Lariat reported. At an event, she shared that it was difficult growing up in America because her parents did not understand the difficulty of growing up in a different country and a small town without many people from other countries or cultures around them.
Immanuel is also the mother of Bernette, who began attending the University of Houston in 2017. Bernette and Mima have both recently posted about the “nightmare” that was their experiences growing up as Black girls in Alexandria, Louisiana. One wrote, “I didn’t realize I was a victim of deep social & systemic abuse.”
Click on the image.
It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.
I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers. Dean Baquet and others have admitted as much on various occasions. The priority in Opinion was to help redress that critical shortcoming.
I was honored to be part of that effort, led by James Bennet. I am proud of my work as a writer and as an editor. Among those I helped bring to our pages: the Venezuelan dissident Wuilly Arteaga; the Iranian chess champion Dorsa Derakhshani; and the Hong Kong Christian democrat Derek Lam. Also: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Masih Alinejad, Zaina Arafat, Elna Baker, Rachael Denhollander, Matti Friedman, Nick Gillespie, Heather Heying, Randall Kennedy, Julius Krein, Monica Lewinsky, Glenn Loury, Jesse Singal, Ali Soufan, Chloe Valdary, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Wesley Yang, and many others.
But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.
Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.
My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.
There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.
I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.
Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.
What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.
Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it. If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated.
It took the paper two days and two jobs to say that the Tom Cotton op-ed “fell short of our standards.” We attached an editor’s note on a travel story about Jaffa shortly after it was published because it “failed to touch on important aspects of Jaffa’s makeup and its history.” But there is still none appended to Cheryl Strayed’s fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati.
The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people. This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its “diversity”; the doxxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst caste systems in human history includes the United States alongside Nazi Germany.
Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do. Why? Perhaps because they believe the ultimate goal is righteous. Perhaps because they believe that they will be granted protection if they nod along as the coin of our realm—language—is degraded in service to an ever-shifting laundry list of right causes. Perhaps because there are millions of unemployed people in this country and they feel lucky to have a job in a contracting industry.
Or perhaps it is because they know that, nowadays, standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back. Too wise to post on Slack, they write to me privately about the “new McCarthyism” that has taken root at the paper of record.
All this bodes ill, especially for independent-minded young writers and editors paying close attention to what they’ll have to do to advance in their careers. Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril. Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you’ll be hung out to dry.
For these young writers and editors, there is one consolation. As places like The Times and other once-great journalistic institutions betray their standards and lose sight of their principles, Americans still hunger for news that is accurate, opinions that are vital, and debate that is sincere. I hear from these people every day. “An independent press is not a liberal ideal or a progressive ideal or a democratic ideal. It’s an American ideal,” you said a few years ago. I couldn’t agree more. America is a great country that deserves a great newspaper.
None of this means that some of the most talented journalists in the world don’t still labor for this newspaper. They do, which is what makes the illiberal environment especially heartbreaking. I will be, as ever, a dedicated reader of their work. But I can no longer do the work that you brought me here to do—the work that Adolph Ochs described in that famous 1896 statement: “to make of the columns of The New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”
Ochs’s idea is one of the best I’ve encountered. And I’ve always comforted myself with the notion that the best ideas win out. But ideas cannot win on their own. They need a voice. They need a hearing. Above all, they must be backed by people willing to live by them.