April 10, 2010

Noah Millman on "The Closing of the Conservative Mind"

Noah Millman writes:
... assuming one agrees (as I do) that the American right-wing is, these days, substantially more closed-minded than the American left-wing (as represented not so much by ordinary people as the intellectual, political and media leadership), why should we have come to this pass?

I'm not sure if that is true in the absolute sense, but it is true in the relativistic, opportunity cost sense. Because, for example, 92% of Hispanic elected officials are Democrats, the Democrats can't afford to have an intelligent debate on immigration. They just can't. The Republicans can, but the Republican Establishment (e.g., George Bush, Karl Rove, John McCain) has striven hard for the last decade against all intelligent discussion of immigration.

Noah goes on:

- Blame the money. Is there a major patron of conservative intellectuals who is a patron primarily because he or she wants to generate new ideas, insights, works of the spirit that do not already exist in the world, as opposed to advancing arguments for ideas that are already well-established in defense of interests that are well-entrenched? If there is, please let me know that person’s name. Ron Unz is the only person who comes immediately to mind, and honestly I don’t think he’s quite in the wealth category one would ideally want.

Nobody, of course, is just going to hand out money willy-nilly. But there is an enormous difference between bankrolling a person or organization because you like what they think, and bankrolling a person or organization because you like the way they think. If a multi-millionaire says: I am interested in education, and I believe that vouchers are the answer, so I’m going to give $100,000 per year to a think-tank to produce pro-vouchers research and advocate for vouchers, well, that’s not really intellectual patronage. If, on the other hand, that same multi-millionaire says: I am interested in education, and I am skeptical of the way the system works now, how we train teachers to how our schools are financed, and impressed with some of what’s been achieved following new models. I’m going to find the smartest, most informed, most independent-minded people I can, who are also skeptical of established practice, and give them money to do whatever research they want. If they can impress me with their independence and intelligence, then I want to know what they can learn with a bit of money to work with – and I want other people to know as well. That second millionaire might wind up funding Diane Ravitch – and getting a very different report than he or she expected. And why would that be so bad? If Diane Ravitch has lost faith in a certain kind of school reform, that’s a hugely important fact – her arguments are ones that any advocate of school reform needs to know and grapple with. Even if she doesn’t change her patron’s mind, he or she should be glad to have funded her work.

Ultimately, you can only have an intelligentsia if you have patrons who are interested in learning things they don’t already know. And so, if you want a conservative intelligentsia, you need patrons of a conservative temperament who want to learn things they don’t already know – things that may unsettle them. If all the patron wants is advocacy for established views in defense of established interests, then you don’t actually have intellectual patronage at all, and pretty soon you won’t have an intellectual establishment.

I have never been a movement conservative, and I’ve never worked for a conservative institution, so any impressions I have are from a considerable distance – second-hand impressions at best, generally third-hand. Having declared that caveat, I will say that my general impression is that the money going to purportedly intellectual conservative organs is vastly more interested in advocacy than in developing intellectual talent or generating new insights. If I’m right, then that is something that has to change if you want an open conservative mind.

But if I’m right, the question that must next be asked is: has this changed? Were things different in 1975, and if so – why? I think it would be highly instructive to see a study done on the sources of funding for conservative organs and see how these sources have changed over time – is the money coming more or less from individuals over time, from more or fewer sources, from the same or different industries, is the age of donors changing, has the place in American life of donors changed over time, etc. I don’t know much of this information is in the public domain, but if it is, it would be interesting to see if anything can be gleaned from this kind of aggregate data. But, you know, I’m an elitist. My own inclination is to think that single individuals who are determined to shape history can make an enormous impact if they have the wherewithal. You don’t need a whole generation of intellectually-minded plutocrats to sponsor a renaissance. If he’s rich enough, and clear-eyed and determined enough, you may only need one.

Noah continues:

- Blame David Frum. Just prior to the Iraq War, David Frum published a now-infamous essay expelling “unpatriotic conservatives” – that is to say, people who vociferously opposed the war – from . . . well, it’s not exactly clear from what, since he had no power to expel anybody from anything – let’s say from “conservative respectability.” And this endeavor on his part was, generally, applauded by the outlets of the organized American right. I don’t know that this was literally unprecedented, but it felt to me at the time – and more so since – like a crucial Rubicon had been crossed.

In previous defenestrations – Eisenhower’s turn against McCarthy, Buckley’s expulsion of the Birchers, the removal of Trent Lott from his leadership position – the organizations or individuals being expelled were extremists of the dominant tendency. If Republicans were generally anti-Communist, McCarthy took this to an unacceptable extreme; if Republicans were generally more friendly to a white Southern perspective on American history, Lott, in his remarks, took this to an unacceptable extreme. Frum was not expelling extremists, however; he was expelling dissenters.

The expulsion of dissenters is not something we generally associate with mainstream political movements; it is most memorable as a tic of the radical left, Stalinists expelling Trotskyites and so forth. Certainly, right-wing groups – anti-tax groups, anti-abortion groups, etc. – have tried to impose orthodoxy before, demanding pledges of allegiance in exchange for electoral support. But this is just interest-group politics; civil-rights groups, unions, and other left-wing organizations do that sort of thing all the time, with more or less effectiveness depending on the political circumstances. Expelling dissenters is something else again, and once the precedent has been set, it is very difficult to see how one may justify not applying it in more and more circumstances.

While I don’t think it’s fair to blame David Frum as an individual for very much (and poetic justice has already been served on him specifically anyhow), I do think it’s important for those who are concerned with the openness or closedness of the conservative mind to grapple with this particular event, and consider whether a formal repudiation might not do rather a bit of good, even at this late date.

A simple model would suggest that conservative intellectual productivity was at its peak in the 1970s and 1980s when neoconservatives were being welcomed to the movement with open arms, but once neoconservatives got the upper hand within the movement, they began purging their rivals, with an unsurprisingly deleterious impact on intellectual life.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Derb's remarks to Penn's Black Law Students' Association

John Derbyshire gave a ten minute presentation to Black Law Students Association at the U. of Pennsylvania on "Should the government play a role in eliminating racial disparities in education and employment?" You can read it here.

My considered judgment is that we will pay the Slavery Tax forever, and that we can, more or less, afford it. What we can't afford is expanding disparate impact and other forms of racial preference to immigrant ethnic groups.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 9, 2010

Just how senile was Justice Stevens?

Justice John Paul Stevens, who will turn 90 in ten days, finally announced his retirement from the Supreme Court.

How senile was he? Well, here's an excerpt from his 2005 opinion in a case striking down a California policy first instituted in 1979 that new prison inmates have only roommates of the same race for the first 60 days while the system checks on whether they have a history of racist gang violence. The 84-year-old Stevens scoffed at the testimony of a veteran prison official:
"One of these [California] officials, an associate warden, testified as follows:
'[W]ith the Asian population, the control sergeants have to be more careful than they do with Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics because, for example, you cannot house a Japanese inmate with a Chinese inmate. You cannot. They will kill each other. They won’t even tell you about it. They will just do it. The same with Laotians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Filipinos. You have to be very careful about housing other Asians with other Asians. It’s very culturally heavy.

"Such musings inspire little confidence. Indeed, this comment supports the suspicion that the policy is based on racial stereotypes and outmoded fears about the dangers of racial integration. This Court should give no credence to such cynical, reflexive conclusions about race. ...

[I]ntegrated cells encourage inmates to gain valuable cross-racial experiences…"

Uh ... yeah ...

Obviously, Stevens sounds completely gaga here.

And, yet, he sounds no more senile than practically every other public figure in our society when it comes to writing about race.

Kinda hard to tell, isn't it?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Malcolm McLaren, RIP

Malcolm McLaren, the amusing and sticky-fingered (self-)promoter / idea man behind the Sex Pistols, has died at age 64.

I always liked best Malcolm's own 1983 minor hit single Buffalo Gals, which pointed out explicitly what I'd been saying since about 1979: rapping sounds an awful lot like that most uncool of all musical forms: square dance calling. McClaren took the 1840s minstrel show song Buffalo Gals, which had evolved into a square dance call, and had some some New York rappers back him up while he rapped it (this was back in the early days before the racial wall hardened, when white people, such as Blondie, Talking Heads, and the Clash, were allowed to rap because rap was just the latest fun fad, not the sacred keystone of African-American culture):
Buffalo Gals go round the outside,
Round the outside, round the outside
And dozey-do your partners

To make sure nobody missed his point, McLaren's Buffalo Gals video features footage of square dancing. (Here's an even better video of a Buffalo Gals square dance on the Lawrence Welk Show.)

I assumed in 1983 that after Malcolm's Buffalo Gals that the world would now get the joke: rap was descended from minstrel shows and the dorkiest of all white forms of music: square dance calling. What more could shame black people, after four years of hip-hop, into going back to something they do very well, singing? Perhaps popular music would finally climb out of the rut of rap, the novelty music gimmick that had refused to die?

I was wrong.

And that was one of Malcolm's better ideas.

Most of his other ideas tended to sound cool in his constant self-promoting interviews, but sputtered out in practice. For example, the whole punk rock ideology Malcolm dreamed up about musical competence meaning nothing was a bad joke. The Sex Pistols were a young but fairly talented band, as their one album, which is full of catchy stuff demonstrated. Then bassist Glen Matlock was thrown out and replaced with Sid Vicious who couldn't play at all. It sort of made sense when you heard Malcolm spin it, but it turned out to be a disaster for all concerned.

Malcolm made an entertaining 1980 movie starring the Sex Pistol's affable guitarist Steve Jones, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, about how the Sex Pistols were just a plot he invented to rip off the record companies for his own bank account. Yet, the concert footage from before their disastrous American tour when they still had Matlock instead of Sid shows they were a very high potential act, that just needed to, you know, practice. Instead, they spent most of the time suing their manager for cheating them.

Malcolm's line of intellectualization about how the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen was built on the Situationist philosophy of French intellectuals from 1968 inspired critic Greil Marcus to write a ridiculously brilliant book about the Situationist roots of why the Sex Pistols hated the Queen. The autobiography of Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, however, debunked all that. Johnny didn't care about Situationism. He hated the British monarchy for the same simple reason his mum and dad did and his grandparents had: Lydon was Irish.

Around 1980, McLaren came up with the good idea of building pop music on top of tribal rhythms from Burundi, first for Adam Ant, and then he took Ant's backing band away, including the prodigious drummer David Barbarossa, to form Bow Wow Wow. There was always speculation that Barbarossa's album tracks had to be multilayered in the studio, but when I saw Bow Wow Wow around 1981, he was moving his hands faster than any drummer I'd seen.

But Malcolm could never have too much controversy, so he hired a 14-year-old girl to be a lead singer and promoted her as a sex kitten. At the show I attended in LA, she blew her voice out painfully on the second song, suggesting to me that 14-year-old girls shouldn't be on rock band world tours.

Anyway, when I was reading McLaren's obituaries yesterday, being reminded of how far he'd gotten in the garment and entertainment industries on sheer chutzpah, I decided to look up more about McLaren because I thought it was striking that he could have the most stereotypically Jewish career imaginable, yet be a Scotsman named Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren. Pointing this out would be good way to shatter stereotypes!

But, then I worried that I ought to check his maternal line and his upbringing before saying this in public. To my surprise (although I shouldn't have been surprised), when I looked up McLaren on Wikipedia yesterday, I found:
McLaren was born to Pete McLaren, a Scottish[6] teenaged war deserter, and Emmy (née Isaacs) in the suburbs of post-World War II London. His father left when he was two and he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Rose Corre Isaacs, the formerly wealthy daughter of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish diamond dealers, in Stoke Newington. McLaren told Andrew Denton on Enough Rope, that his grandmother always said to him, "To be bad is good... to be good is simply boring".[7] ... When he was six, McLaren's mother married Martin Levi, a man working in London's rag trade.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 7, 2010

"Upheaval in Kyrgyzstan Could Imperil Key U.S. Base"

Here's the #1 most important news story on NYTimes.com tonight:

Upheaval in Kyrgyzstan Could Imperil Key U.S. Base

Protests appear to have overthrown the government, calling into question the fate of a U.S. air base that supports the war in Afghanistan.

Whatever will America do without our key base in Kyrzygsrgtz ... ah, to hell with it. If I can't spell, I can't care about it.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

What does it take to be a genius?

Here's the beginning of my new Taki's Magazine column:

What does it take to be a genius?

Europeans of the Romantic Era tended to ascribe the accomplishments of the great to an inborn spark. In contrast, in this age in which voracious competitiveness must rationalize itself in politically correct terms, American self-help books, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us, denigrate the importance of talent. They even go to the comic extreme of citing Mozart, who could compose music as fast as he could jot it down, as evidence for the dominance of nurture over nature.

To reach the pinnacles of achievement, to be, out of the 100 billion or so humans who have ever lived, one of the few hundred individuals to be remembered by one name—to be a Mozart, a Beethoven, a Bach—does it help to have innate talent? How about ten thousand hours of practice? An intense work ethic? An obsessive personality? A supportive family? A conducive culture? Role models? Personal connections? Energy? Being in the right place at the right time? Not dying before adulthood? Sheer luck?


Few of the all-time greats were fortunate enough to have every single one of these factors in abundance, but they typically had more than a few. Nobody can accomplish all that solely on his own. Conversely, no family, culture, or state can concoct a genius without a unique individual. ...

And, yet, the notion that golden age German-speakers enjoyed some genetic advantages in musical talent is not implausible. Why?

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 6, 2010

Did we get Hammurabi backwards?

Awhile ago, I was waiting at a government office and finally got up to the window at 4:25 pm, which was lucky because the agency's website had said the cutoff time for what I wanted to do was 4:30 pm. But the clerk refused. When I protested, he pointed to a sign on the wall that said the cutoff was 4:00 pm.

I couldn't win that argument. The man had a $5 plastic sign that said the cutoff was 4:00 pm.

So it is written, so it shall be done, as Yul Brynner used to say.

That got me thinking about King Hammurabi of Babylon (ruled 1792 BC to 1750 BC), who has been popular at least since the Code of Hammurabi stele was dug up in 1901 showing that he was one of the earlier kings to have the laws carved on a hunk of rock and set up in a public place.

This is usually praised as a step forward in the struggle against tyranny: Writing laws down mean that even the king is bound by laws, that laws that are spelled out beforehand mean that the king can't rule by whim, that he must spell out laws that seem fair in the abstract.

No doubt there is some truth to that, but I suspect that carving laws into stone made the king more powerful in some ways.

Before written laws, everything was kind of vague. The king would thunder from memory, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," and, I would bet, immediately a kibitzer would interject, "I always heard it was 'An eye for two teeth,'" and then some other senile codger would say, "No, it's 'An eyetooth for an ear,'" and so forth and so on.

But once the king had the laws carved in stone, then, just like the bureaucrat with the plastic sign, he had powerful juju on his side. You can't argue with a sign.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Census

From my VDARE.com column:
I’m always being asked why I study identity politics issues such as race, ethnicity, sex, and age. The implication is that those aren’t respectable topics for serious thinking.

Yet the Census form that recently arrived in your mailbox shows that the U.S. government is obsessed with those precise questions.

The Constitution defines the decennial Census as an "enumeration"—i.e., a count of everybody. Therefore, the questionnaire is kept relatively short. (The Census Bureau asks more detailed questions on a vast variety of subjects on its monthly American Community Survey sample of 250,000.)

What questions are considered so critical to the government in 2010 that the Census has to ask them of every single resident?

Of the ten questions on the 2010 form, five are concerned with enumeration (for example, asking your name and phone number) and one with whether you own your home (with or without a mortgage). The other four deal with identity:

6. What is Person 1's sex?
7. What is Person 1's age and Date of Birth?
8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?
9. What is Person 1's race?

In contrast, there are—of course—no questions asked about whether the resident is a citizen or is even in the country legally.

Personally, I believe that paying careful attention to what the state is doing is public-spirited. But it’s more fashionable to be naïve and ignorant about race. For example, liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias recently proclaimed: "My guess is that in the future the vast majority of people descended from immigrants from Asia or Latin America will be seen as white."

Yet, why in the world would they want to be white when they win money and prizes from the government for being legally nonwhite? You get more of what you pay for. And the U.S. pays people to consider themselves non-white. Thus, since the 1960s, all the movement has been away from being seen as white.

Read the whole thing.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 5, 2010


An Armenian-American reader asks for an "all Armenian post." So, let's see what I can come up with:

- The basic cultural flavor of Armenians strikes me as Mediterranean -- thus, this restaurant bloodbath near my house on Saturday immediately reminded me of the restaurant shooting scene in The Godfather. But just as Sicilian gangsterism in New York in the 1950s, while repugnant, didn't ruin New York as a place to live, Armenian gangsterism in SoCal in 2010 seems to mostly consist of Armenians shooting other Armenians.

This Mediterranean flavor seems odd because the Armenian homeland is well to the east in Asia, on the south side of the Caucasus Mountains. The Black Sea, however, gave a huge section of Eurasia relatively easy access to the Mediterranean. In America, though, we don't normally pay much attention to the lands around the Black Sea. We're vaguely aware that Constantinople / Istanbul was long considered to have the world's most strategic location, but we don't really pay much attention to the lands east of Constantinople. Which is a verbose way of saying I don't know much about Armenia. (I know even less about the other Christian Asian nation, Georgia, which shoved its way into the headlines in 2008 when it attacked the Russian Army.)

- A reader writes:
In addition to the critical mass issue, one of the interesting things about Armenian criminality, whether in LA or NY, is that it's skewed overwhelmingly toward people from Soviet Armenia rather than Lebanon or Syria or Turkey or Egypt. And this is despite the fact that the immigrants from the former Soviet Armenia are almost all the first cousins, literally, of the people who came from the non-Soviet middle east, because the people emigrating from Armenia are those (plus their children and grandchildren) who made aliyah, as it were, to Armenia after WWII by the tens of thousands. The ones who stayed in Syria and Iraq etc. and then came to the US are basically successful middle class immigrants but their first and second cousins who lived under communism were basically wrecked, morally, by the experience.

The Soviet empire's cultural legacy seems to be an advanced education for its inmates in Gangsterism 101.

- Armenian-Americans are unusual for a small immigrant group at doing well in both farming (especially orchards around Fresno) and in the kind of businesses at the polar opposite of farming, such as being a Hollywood agent. (In contrast, Jews don't farm, while the Japanese made fine farmers in the West, but didn't get much into Hollywood.) Anyway, it seems kind of an odd combination of skills. Perhaps an explanation is that California farming is more like running a medium-sized business with a hired workforce than is, say, dairy farming in Wisconsin, which is more classic do-it-yourself farming.

- There has long been bad blood in California between Armenians and Mexicans, such as gang fights at Grant H.S. in the San Fernando Valley going back to the 1970s. This is actually pretty funny considering how often you always hear people say that racial conflicts are due to people looking different and having different colored skins, or to having ancient prejudices against each other. But practically nobody in Mexico has ever heard of Armenia and practically nobody in Armenia has ever heard of Mexico. Yet, when the kids of immigrants from Mexico and Armenia show up at Grant H.S., they take one look at each other and decide they don't like what they see.

Which is also ironic, because they really don't look all that different. A few years I was walking around a neighborhood in the central SFV amazed at all the new gigantically expensive security fencing that was going in around each house. Each homeowner seems to be competing with his neighbors to buy the tallest, scariest, and most over-decorated steel fencing. Afterwards, I started wondering: "How can Mexicans afford all those lethal finials and wrought-iron fleur-de-lis?" The next time I was there, I noticed that all the Mexicans in the neighborhood seemed light-skinned and non-mestizo. And then it finally dawned on me that it wasn't a Mexican neighborhood at all, it was an Armenian neighborhood. It was a stupid mistake for me to make, but it does raise questions about all the assurances we hear that racial rivalries are only skin deep.

- Those two very parallel English novelists, Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell, had famous things to say about Armenians. Waugh admired the urbane competence of the Armenian chauffeurs and hoteliers he met on a trip to Abyssinia and gave one a major role his novel "Black Mischief." Orwell wrote in Down and Out in Paris and London: "after meeting him i saw sense in the proverb : Trust a snake before you trust a Jew, Trust a Jew before you trust a Greek, BUT NEVER TRUST AN ARMENIAN."

- So, how smart are Armenians? It's hard to say. They tend to have a wide variety of talents -- e.g., the Mikoyan brothers in the Soviet Union: one was head of MiG fighter jet production and the other was one of Stalin's inner circle of six. Armenians have owned and run major movie studios in Hollywood.

On the other hand, there isn't that much depth in Armenian accomplishments -- they are a small people who see to be pretty good at a lot of different things, which doesn't leave them room to be be really great at too many things. In general, I 'd compare them to Italian-Americans, a group that that lodged itself securely in the middle of the levels of American accomplishment.

Armenians tend to be considered white. For example, when Republican candidate George Deukmejian beat LA Mayor Tom Bradley in the 1982 and 1986 elections for governor of California, he was universally know as the White Guy while Mayor Tom was The Black Guy. On the other hand, I've heard an Armenian young man refer to "whites" as the non-Armenians, so attitudes could be shifting.

"Teach For America Chews Up, Spits Out Another Ethnic-Studies Major"

An interesting perspective:
NEW YORK—Teach For America, a national program that recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income rural and urban communities, has devoured another ethnic-studies major, 24-year-old Andy Cuellen reported Tuesday.

"Look, the world is a miserable place," said Cuellen, a Dartmouth graduate who quit the TFA program Monday morning. ... Just one of the 12,000 young people TFA has burned through since 1990, Cuellen was given five weeks of training the summer before he took over a classroom at P.S. 83 in the South Bronx last September.

"I walked into that school actually thinking I could make a difference," said Cuellen, who taught an overflowing class of disadvantaged 8-year-olds. "It was trial by fire. But after five months spent in a stuffy, dark room where the chalkboard fell off the wall every two days, corralling screaming kids into broken desks, I'm burnt to a crisp."

Cuellen said his TFA experience "taught him a lot about hopelessness." ... "And there's not a goddamned thing you or anyone can do about it. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. Or trying to get you to teach kids math."

According to Dartmouth literature, as a member of the ethnic-studies department, Cuellen learned "to empower students of color to move beyond being objects of study toward being subjects of their own social realities, with voices of their own."

Teach For America executive director Theo Anderson called ethnic-studies departments "a prime source of fodder."

"Oh, I'd say we burn through a hundred or so ethnic-studies majors each year," said Anderson, pointing to a series of charts showing the college-major breakdown of TFA corps members. "They tend to last a little longer than women's studies majors and art-therapy students, but Cuellen got mashed to a pulp pretty quickly. It usually takes ethnic-studies majors another year to realize that they're wasting their precious youth on a Sisyphean endeavor."

Continued Anderson: "Of course, we don't worry about it too much. Every year, there's a fresh crop to throw in the grinder. As we speak, scores of apple-cheeked students are hearing about TFA for the first time."

According to Anderson, a small portion of these students will lose interest after hearing horror stories from program alumni.

"But the majority of them will march on like cattle to the slaughter, thinking that pure determination and hope can change young lives," Anderson said. "I can hear their footsteps now, marching toward our offices like lemmings to a cliff. And believe me, we're ready for 'em."

Although Cuellen quit the program early, his mother said he was with TFA long enough for it "to crack open his bones and suck out the marrow inside."

"Andy is a ghost," Beverly Cuellen said. "Those [TFA] people beat the idealism out of him, then they stomped on him while he lay there gasping for air."

TFA regional coordinator Sandra Richman said it is common to blame the TFA employees for the organization's high plow-through rate.

"Should I have said something to wake those kids up sooner?" Richman said, crushing out her seventh cigarette. "Probably. But listen, no one can tell you that you can't make a difference. It's something you have to figure out for yourself."

From the February 16, 2005 issue of The Onion.

April 4, 2010

To the surprise of nobody

In local police blotter news on Saturday, a man walked into the usually "oddly empty" restaurant in a nice part of the southeast San Fernando Valley and shot six people, four of whom have died so far. I tried to drive by last night and the cops had four square blocks barricaded off.

My dad says he ate there once. He was the only customer in the restaurant the whole time, but employees were coming and going, making deliveries.
To the surprise of nobody, it was announced today that all the dead men's names end in -ian or -yan. From the LA Daily News:
An official with the Los Angeles County Coroner's office said Sarkis Karadjian, 26, of Sherman Oaks, Hayk Yegnanyan, 25, of Glendale, and Harut Baburyan, 28, whose address was unknown all died as a result of injuries sustained after the shooting Saturday at the Hot Spot Cafe on Riverside Drive. Vardan Tofalyan, 31, was later identified by police. Police said at least one gunman shot at the six men inside the Hot Spot Cafe in the 11600 block of Riverside Drive. The cafe bills itself as a Mediterranean restaurant but neighbors described it Saturday after the shooting as often oddly empty. ... The main suspect was described only as a white male, possibly Armenian, around 30 years old.

There's no mention of whether the gunman took the cannoli.

As I wrote a couple of months ago in my study of all 2600+ homicides in LA County since 2007:
Not surprisingly to anybody who follows the local police blotter, 14 of the 47 Caucasian victims were of West Asian descent, and nine of those 14 Armenians. Only 1.7 percent of the population of Los Angeles County is Armenian, but some of them are a bit lively, rather like Sicilians in a Scorsese movie: enterprising and affluent, but with an Old World code of honor. Suspects in killings of Armenians are often described as vanishing into the night in BMWs or Lexuses. Judging by the Old Country first names of the Armenian victims, most were immigrants or the children of immigrants rather than from the pre-1924 wave of Armenian immigrants. ...
The density of diversity in L.A. County provides a critical mass that allows the bad apples to find each other. In most of the U.S., for instance, Armenians are well-behaved. In Southern California, however, there are 170,000 Armenians, enough to furnish an Armenian street gang, Armenian Power, as well as transnational mafias with roots in the old Soviet Union.

Why no arrests of Banksters yet in 2008 collapse?

A year and a half after the financial crash of 2008, no major Wall Street figures have been arrested (except for loners like Bernie Madoff). There has been much discussion of how to improve financial regulation, but it's clear that A) It's very complicated and B) Clever guys on Wall St. would probably find ways to outsmart not-as-clever civil servants.

So, it's totally impossible to impose some level of deterrence on future Wall Streeters, right? How can the government write rules ahead of time that will prevent firms from engaging in dubious behavior that hasn't been dreamed up yet?

Fortunately, there's another form of deterrence. As Voltaire said after the British navy messed up and lost the island of Minorca to the French: The English like to shoot an admiral now and then to encourage the others. We can encourage future banksters by what we do to the old banksters.

Now, shooting is probably a little much, but why not imprison a few 8-figure per year bank officers? That will put a little fear in future banksters. That will make them cautious about exploiting loopholes they find in regulations.

You may say, but that's the problem, they didn't violate any laws.

And I say, I've watched Law & Order. There are a lot of laws out there. Creative prosecutors can improvise. I've seen the feds put Martha Stewart in prison even a after they found out that she was innocent of what they started investigating her for. And Martha Stewart didn't lose a trillion dollars of the public's money. 

Tom Friedman repeats phrase "High I.Q. risk-takers" 8 times

Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times:
After all, Craig Mundie, the chief research and strategy officer of Microsoft, asks: What made America this incredible engine of prosperity? It was immigration, plus free markets. Because we were so open to immigration — and immigrants are by definition high-aspiring risk-takers, ready to leave their native lands in search of greater opportunities — “we as a country accumulated a disproportionate share of the world’s high-I.Q. risk-takers.”
... In its heyday, our unique system also attracted a disproportionate share of high-I.Q. risk-takers to high government service. So when you put all this together, with our free markets and democracy, it made it easy here for creative, high-I.Q. risk-takers to raise capital for their ideas and commercialize them. ...

“When you get this happy coincidence of high-I.Q. risk-takers in government and a society that is biased toward high-I.Q. risk-takers, you get these above-average returns as a country,” argued Mundie. “What is common to Singapore, Israel and America? They were all built by high-I.Q. risk-takers and all thrived ...

It isn’t drastic, but it is a decline — at a time when technology is allowing other countries to leverage and empower more of their own high-I.Q. risk-takers. If we don’t reverse this trend, over time, “we could lose our most important competitive edge — the only edge from which sustainable advantage accrues” — having the world’s biggest and most diverse pool of high-I.Q. risk-takers, said Mundie.