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Congress vs. liberty

From ballooning national debt and spending on the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlement programs to the thousands of regulations imposed each year to efforts to strip Americans’ gun rights to enhanced spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency and others, government continues to grow and become more intrusive in our lives. So where are the pro-liberty legislators trying to protect us from these depredations?

While defenders of liberty in Congress are far too few for our liking, the Republican Liberty Caucus’ 2015 Liberty Index of Congress provides some insight into who is — and who is not — guarding our freedoms against the ravages of tax hikers, socialists, paternalistic do-gooders and other statists. The index, compiled by RLC of Virginia Chairman Clifford Thies, scores members of Congress based on their votes in two categories: Economic liberties and personal liberties.

The top performer in either chamber was Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who scored a rare “double-100” in the two categories. Californian Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Tom McClintock, both Republicans, also ranked among the top 10, each with a score of 95.

At the other end of the spectrum, the worst score of just 8 — the only single-digit score in the House — went to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who has lately gained attention for being booed at her own party’s convention and forced to resign her post as chairman of the Democratic National Committee over an email scandal.

While it is not surprising that Republicans scored much higher, on average, than Democrats in the economic liberties category, their significantly higher scores in personal liberties might be less expected. As Thies explained, this is likely because “our approach embraces the entire Bill of Rights,” including Second Amendment gun and self-defense rights and the, unfortunately, now largely ignored Ninth and Tenth amendments, which preserve individual rights not enumerated in the Constitution and reserve powers not delegated to the federal government to the states or the people, respectively.

“In recent years, the federal government has become increasingly arbitrary and even despotic,” Thies warned, as the executive branch has tilted the balance of powers through executive action and, with the consent of Congress, through “all-encompassing budget deals.” This is why we should keep in mind as the November elections approach that it is critical to elect representatives who will stand up for both our economic and our personal freedoms.

The Orange County Register, July 28

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Islamic State murder of a priest is savagery

The murder Tuesday of an 85-year-old Catholic priest while offering Mass in a village church in France, promptly claimed by the Islamic State for its “soldiers,” probably takes to a whole new level the global conflict with that organization.

The immediate repercussions of the act will be felt in French politics, with presidential elections to take place next year. For French President Francois Hollande and his beleaguered Socialist government, coming on the heels of the recent Nice attack, the Paris Bataclan massacre and the earlier Charlie Hebdo assault, the new attack couldn’t be worse.

After the savage attack in Nice, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France must “learn to live with terrorism,” a fatalistic sentiment that was widely denounced, even if the French character is accustomed to shrugging off hardship. But a public murder in a 17th-century village church in Normandy, with an elderly priest’s throat cut while a nun is held hostage, drills into the fundamental identity of the French. Some of it may be mythology looming up, but they all — even the Parisians — will find what happened at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray close to impossible to bear.

The killing of the Rev. Jacques Hamel puts Hollande’s government between a rock and a hard place. He has pledged now to have places of worship guarded more closely. France has some 25,000 working churches, synagogues and mosques so that measure becomes so costly in terms of resources as to be close to absurd. His farthest-right opponent, Marine Le Pen and her National Front, will not be able to resist hopping onto the attack for current and upcoming political advantage.

The major threat of this piece of escalation is that the events spiral into a real live war between Christians and Muslims, taking us all back to the 15th century. Practical people understand that the Islamic State does not represent the majority of Muslims by any means. But fear is contagious.

It is necessary, if there is any reliable communication between the leaders of countries like France and the United States and the heads of organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaida, to try to reach them with something other than drones. There is no reason to believe that they will see the light, but they should be able at least to understand that an enraged French or American population will hurt them badly, not yield to them.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 28

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