What did the Pope say that was so wrong? It isn't obvious to me

With all the attacks on what the Pope said this week, I thought that I would look up exactly what he said (the material quoted by the Pope is in italics). If you were to read the entire speach, I think that it comes across as extremely academic (though despite his discussion of logic I am not sure how logical it actually is). Here is the relevant part of his talk:

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry. . . .

UPDATE: Dennis Prager has some interesting comments on what the Pope said and the reaction to it.

Betting Odds on Who will win control of the US House and Senate

The University of Iowa Electronic Markets again show the betting on who will win control of the US House and Senate. Right now the Republicans have a 50 percent probability of winning both houses, the Dems thus have about a 50 percent probability of winning at least one house of congress.

Some Recent Defensive Gun Uses

Gun-toting citizen foils robbery, leads APD to arrest, September 14, 2006, Albany (Ga.) -- A bystander broke up a Northwest Albany armed robbery he witnessed by firing two gunshots in the air. He then followed the armed robbers as they fled, and alerted police who arrested the three gunmen. Now, the man who stopped the robbers and their victims are too scared to talk to us on camera, afraid the young crooks will come after them. Just before 11:00 Wednesday night two gunmen jumped a man and a woman in the back parking lot as they left Mama Gina's Restaurant on North Slappey. The male victim, Michael, is afraid to show his face on camera, worried the robbers will come after him again. "He had a red bandana on, waving a gun all around, threatened to shoot us if we didn't give them the money." Marcus saw the robbery happening, and decided to help. He is too afraid to give his name or talk to us, but when he saw the robber's guns, he went to get his. Mama Gina's owner Vinny Mannino said, "The guy go in his car and get his gun. He shoot one shot in the air to scare the guys, they run away. He shot another shot in the air to make them stop, but they keep running." . . .

Choir Member Shoots Would-Be Robber Outside Little Rock Church. 9/14/2006 9:10:56 AM -- Police say a gun-toting member of a Little Rock church choir shot and killed a man as he attempted to rob a woman. Police spokesman Lieutenant Terry Hastings said a man and woman were walking about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday when they were confronted by a would-be robber carrying a pistol. The man fled in one direction and the woman in another. . . .

Suspects flee robbery attempt in JCC, BY DANIELLE ZIELINSKI, September 14, 2006, 1:44 PM EDT, James City (Va.) -- A robbery attempt this morning at ABM Fashion Beauty was foiled when an employee of the store pulled out a handgun and fired several shots at the perpetrators, police said. No one was hurt in the incident, and the two robbery suspects fled on foot, James City Police spokesman Mike Spearman said. . . .

MILWAUKEE (September 12, 2006)-- Police said a storeowner shot and killed one of two teenagers he said was trying to rob his Milwaukee store.

BEAUMONT, TEXAS – At 5:30 a.m. Sept. 9, Beaumont Police responded to a burglary call at a residence in the 6200 block of Yaupon Street. Upon arrival, officers noticed the house appeared to have been hit by gunfire. According to the victim, he awoke after hearing a noise in his home. He grabbed his gun, investigated further and found an intruder in the house. When the suspect saw the victim, he ran. The victim then fired three shots in the house at the suspect. He missed. The suspect ran out of the house and got into a green Ford. . . .


Judge: Massachusetts Law Gives Local Police Broad Powers to Ban Selling of Guns

QUINCY - A court upheld Quincy Police Chief Robert Crowley’s decision to deny a downtown sporting goods store a license to sell firearms in a case that further riled gun advocates already frustrated by the chief’s policies on granting permits.

Superior Court Judge Wendie Gershengorn ruled that Crowley was within his authority to deny a license to sell guns to Ronald Hidalgo, the owner of the Sportsman’s Den on Southern Artery, because of a 20-year-old assault charge and a 6-year-old restraining order.

Both cases were ultimately dropped, but a state law giving police chiefs broad discretion in deciding who is qualified for a gun permit doesn’t contradict Crowley’s reasoning, the judge ruled.

Hidalgo, who has owned the store for 10 years, filed the lawsuit last year, asserting that the chief was abusing his authority essentially because he could.

Hidalgo has a Quincy-issued licensed to carry a handgun and earned approval from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to be a gun dealer before he was shot down by Crowley.

‘‘Somebody has to explain to me how I can be perfectly suitable to carry a firearm, but I can’t sell one. I just can’t wrap my brain around that,’’ Hidalgo said.

‘‘He’s hurting me financially, taking money out of my pocket just because he wants to be the guy in charge. It’s ridiculous,’’ Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo said he doesn’t think he’ll appeal the court ruling because he has already spent $20,000 and doesn’t think he can afford to take the fight any further . . .


Pulling another Torricelli

From John Fund at OpinionJournal's Political Diary:

New Jersey Democrats are huddling to see how much damage appointed U.S. Senator Bob Menendez has suffered from last week's revelation that a local U.S. Attorney has subpoenaed records of his financial dealings with a local nonprofit organization that has benefited from his political actions. Some Democrats are quietly talking about asking Mr. Menendez, who trails Republican Tom Kean Jr. in the latest polls, to step aside much as scandal-tarred Senator Bob Torricelli did in 2002. Mr. Torricelli's replacement on the ballot, former Senator Frank Lautenberg, went on to win in November.

Officially, Democrats are denying any such intention, although party lawyers are poring over statute books to determine how easily they could replace Mr. Menendez if he were to drop out after the legal deadline next Wednesday. It's clear that Democratic leaders are worried. . . .



Isn't this what government normally does?

I wonder if this type of quid pro quo is so common that it isn't even considered corruption. Your politician gives your federal grants and in return you given him donations.

And now a fresh scandal has national Democratic leaders panicking, even though the Dems haven't lost a Senate election in the Garden State since 1972. That's because this election could well decide control of the Senate come January.

News broke last Friday of a federal investigation into Menendez's finances. Over a period of nearly nine years, Menendez collected $329,353 in rent for what's been described as a "shabby" three-story rowhouse he owns in Union City.

Problem is, the rent came from the North Hudson Community Action Corp., an anti-poverty agency - and, even as he was the group's landlord, then-Rep. Menendez was muscling the federal Department of Health and Human Services to list the outfit as a federally qualified health center.

That designation has allowed the agency to rake in $9.6 million in federal HHS grants since 1998 - indeed, Washington now covers 64 percent of its yearly budget. And grateful NHCAC employees and officials have given thousands to Menendez's campaigns.

As for the building, Menendez sold it in 2003 for $405,000 - a 440 percent profit over what he paid for it two decades before.

Now comes reports that U.S. Attorney Chris Christie - who has won bipartisan praise for his anti-corruption prosecutions - has subpoenaed NHCAC's financial records.

Menendez and his allies are screaming bloody murder. "Straight out of the Bush-Rove playbook," the senator whined. Lautenberg called the subpoena's timing "sinister," while Gov. Jon Corzine - who handpicked Menendez to succeed him in the Senate - said the probe seems "less than objective." (Christie is a Republican who has been mentioned for higher office.) . . .


Judge approves Voter ID requirements go in Arizona

I guess that I am last hopeful about what will happen at the Appeals Court level given that the 9th is so very liberal.

A federal judge declined Monday to block a law that requires Arizona voters to present identification before casting a ballot.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver's order came a day before Tuesday's primary, the first statewide election for which voters will be required to show identification. The law has already been used in some municipal elections.

The 2004 law requires that voters at polling places produce government-issued picture ID or two pieces of other non-photo identification specified by the law. It also requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

Parts of the law were aimed chiefly at illegal immigrants.

A number of challengers had sued to prohibit election officials from enforcing the registration and polling-place identification requirements. Critics said that the law would disenfranchise voters, particularly minorities and the elderly, and that requiring voters to acquire and produce identification would be burdensome in time, money and effort.

They also claimed it hinders voter registration drives.

Secretary of State Janice K. Brewer said the law was a protection against voter fraud. "Today's court ruling assures the integrity of this process by retaining the requirements established by Proposition 200," she said in a statement.

Within hours, lawyers for some of the challengers filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. . . .

Chicago Decides to Keep Jobs: Minimum Wage Increase Defeated

Democrats split over battle on minimum wage increase. I may disagree with Daley on many things and dislike him for other reasons, but Chicago can be thankful that he fought on this issue.

A divided City Council today sustained Mayor Daley’s first-ever veto by a 31 to 18 vote: Wal-Mart and 42 other big box retailers in Chicago will not have to pay their employees at least $13 an hour in wages and benefits by 2010.

One day after framing the debate in racial terms, Daley got his way with three votes to spare.

Thirty-four votes were needed to override the mayor’s veto. The attempt fell three votes short. As expected, three aldermen who supported the minimum wage ordinance on July 26 crossed over to support the mayor: Aldermen George Cardenas (12th), Shirley Coleman (16th) and Danny Solis (25th). As expected, they were joined by Ald. Helen Shiller (46th), the only alderman who did not cast a vote on July 26.

The vote came after two hours and 15 minutes of debate following a recess to accommodate chief big-box supporter Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who attended the funeral of six children who died in a Rogers Park fire.

Coleman agreed to change sides after Wal-Mart promised to build an Englewood store at 63rd and Halsted, down the street from the soon-to-be built Kennedy-King College.

Solis has been angling for Daley to appoint him to the job of city clerk vacant since the resignation of convicted City Clerk Jim Laski. But, he said today, “Even if he [Daley] offered it now, I wouldn’t take it. It’s too late. The opportunity was three or four months back when an incumbent could have made something out of it.” . . .

Here is a discussion on the possible implications for Daley:

The Chicago mayor flexed his muscle with his veto of the controversial measure, but his fight with the city council showed that he may actually be vulnerable in next year's election . . .

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Insightful article on crime problem in Pennsylvania

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Daily News called its hometown the “City of Blood,” and by all accounts that is a fair assessment for a place with 268 murders and more than 1,330 people shot this year.

So all eyes will be on Harrisburg later this month, when the state House meets in a rare, informal daylong voting session on how to curb violent crime in the City of Brotherly Love and across Pennsylvania.

But where some Philadelphia-area lawmakers see the need for tough new gun-control measures, local legislators and top law-enforcement officials see an opportunity to get to the root of the problem: drugs.

“Gun violence is coming from the drug trade,” said state Rep. Katie True, a Republican from East Hempfield Township. “People who deal in drugs, who make millions of dollars, really don’t care what kind of laws we pass on guns.” . . .

It is pretty hard to stop drug dealers from getting a hold of guns.

Why Ken Blackwell's Race for Governor is so Important


Is violent crime rising?

Experts said these increases buttress reports from the FBI and many mayors and police chiefs that violent crime is beginning to rise after a long decline. . . .

This report tells us more the serious events — robbery and gun crimes — increased and the FBI already told us homicides increased," said criminal justice professor James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. . . .

Professor Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University said the rise in gun violence was particularly troubling.

"A major police effort to confiscate guns helped bring down the surge in violent crime that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s," Blumstein said. "But gun distribution is easier now because we have begun to back off gun control."

Backed by the National Rifle Association, the Bush administration has been cool toward gun control measures.

The statistics bureau's victimization report found that the overall violent crime rate was unchanged in 2005 from the year before, at just over 21 crimes for every 1,000 individuals over age 12. . . .

1) Does one year make a trend? Could be, but it is really hard to see any pattern in robbery rates over the last five years. The same is true for gun crimes. Because of the comparisons drawn in the piece regarding the Clinton administration, I have put down some numbers for violent crime. Just so that you can see that since the last full year of Clinton's administration, the violent crime rate has fallen by 23 percent (15 percent since 2001). Since so much weight is put on robbery, it has fallen by 19 percent since the end of Clinton (7 percent since 2001, though again I think that it is hard to see any pattern since 2001).

Robbery Rate
1985 5.1
1990 5.7
1995 5.4
1998 4.0
1999 3.6
2000 3.2
2001 2.8
2002 2.2
2003 2.5
2004 2.1
2005 2.6

How does one use the violent crime numbers reported to justify the statement that experts believe that "violent crime is beginning to rise after a long decline"?

Violent Crime Rate
1985 45.2
1990 44.1
1995 46
1998 35.9
1999 32
2000 27.3
2001 24.6
2002 22.7
2003 22.2
2004 21
2005 20.9

2) Despite all their claim that people are being harmed more because of the increase in robbery rates last year, the share of robberies involving injury has actually fallen. Going from 56.3 percent in 2004 to 49.6 percent in 2005 and the longer term decline is even greater.

3) It would be nice if the AP provided even a little balance in academics who it interviewed.

More on Utah State Supreme Court Striking Down University's Ban Against Guns

Here is some of the coverage that this decision is receiving from academia.

Article 1)
n a ruling that legal experts say could threaten the autonomy of public universities and the safety of their students, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Friday that the University of Utah cannot bar guns from its campus.

The university says that the ban will remain in effect, pending a federal court battle, where academic freedom arguments based on the the U.S. Constitution will be raised. Nonetheless, Friday’s ruling angered college leaders, who saw it as a terrible precedent. “This is a violation of law and common sense,” said Sheldon E. Steinbach, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, which is backing the university in the case. “What’s it going to take for those representatives in Utah to understand? Will they only be moved after there has been an unfortunate incident involving a gun-slinging student?”

Utah’s attorney general, meanwhile, praised the ruling as “a victory for the rule of law,” and he was joined by Utah lawmakers in pledging to fight for the right of students and others to bring guns on campus.

Banning firearms from campuses is a widespread policy — and it doesn’t generally vary from state to state, even though states have widely differing gun laws. The dispute in Utah dates to 2001, when Mark Shurtleff, the attorney general, issued an opinion finding that the University of Utah’s gun ban violated state laws barring state or local entities from enacting restrictions on access to firearms. The university sued in federal court, charging that its academic freedom assured by the First Amendment was being violated, and also stating that Utah lawmakers had given the university considerable autonomy when they created it — enough to allow the university to set its own gun policy. . . .

Article 2)
The University of Utah cannot ban guns on its campus in defiance of a state gun-rights law, the Utah Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

Utah legislators enacted a law in 2004 prohibiting government agencies, like the university, from adopting policies that would restrict the possession of a firearm on public or private property. In a 4-to-1 ruling, the court sided with the state attorney general, who defended the law and argued that the university had no autonomy under the Utah Constitution to ignore the law.

The university asserted that the law hindered academic freedom and that its institutional autonomy under the Utah Constitution allowed it to enforce the ban.

Michael K. Young, the university's president, said on Friday in a written statement that while he is "disappointed" at the ruling, the university will now pursue the issue in the federal courts. A federal court, where the university had first presented its case, had instructed it to submit the gun ban first to the adjudication of state courts, and to notify the federal court once that litigation had run its course.

"We are primarily concerned, as we have been from Day 1, with how to keep our students safe," Mr. Young said in an interview.

In the case's first full hearing, a Utah district court held that the university's firearms policy did not contradict state law, but the attorney general appealed. Around the same time, the Utah Legislature passed a bill that said a local or state entity may not enforce a policy related to firearms unless specifically authorized by a state statute. . . .


Lincoln Chafee in tough senate primary on Tuesday