ANOTHER VIEW | LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Politicians and activists re-acted with dismay recently to the news that the FBI illegally tapped into foreign intelligence data looking for dirt on U.S. citizens. But given this news emerged just days after the release of the Durham report, which fingered the FBI as knee-deep in the bogus Russian collusion narrative that dominated Beltway politics during the Trump years, the outrage and surprise seem underwhelming.
The secret FISA court publicly released an opinion that found the agency had no factual basis to comb through reports compiled under a law intended to combat foreign espionage in search of dirt on Jan. 6 protesters and those who took to the streets after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
"The revelations were contained in a heavily redacted opinion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which said the violations were significant," The Wall Street Journal reported.
The agency claimed to be operating under the authority of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Act, which is "supposed to be limited to targeting foreign nationals located abroad who are believed to be agents of a foreign power or members of an international terrorist group."
The information gathered, however, often includes data on American citizens who, for instance, may communicate with those abroad. To access that information in most cases, the FBI needs to obtain a warrant.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the revelations "shocking." A top ACLU official argued that such "unlawful searches undermine our core constitutional rights and threaten the bedrock of our democracy."
They're right, of course. But where have they been for the past seven years? The Durham report reveals an FBI so steeped in politics that it violated its own standards to embark on a full-blown investigation of the Trump White House on the basis of a bogus dossier with little basis in reality. The agency also misled the FISA court to obtain wiretaps. In all, the FBI "failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law."
Sound familiar? FBI officials maintain that all these errors — made during the Trump investigation or while illegally snooping under Section 702 — have been addressed and "corrective" action has been taken. It would be nice to believe so.
But it's clear that Congress should pay closer attention to what's going on at FBI headquarters. And if lawmakers decide to reauthorize Section 702, which expires this year, more rigorous safeguards must be implemented to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.
Ron DeSantis apparently wants to be president. His pitch rests on the "Florida blueprint," the stuff he's done as the state's governor. But the assumption that the American majority wants much of the DeSantis program is shaky. It's not even clear that Floridians do.
A Pew poll has 56% of Floridians supporting legal abortion in all or most cases. And that was taken before DeSantis actually made abortion illegal. Polls also show most Floridians are opposed to permitless, concealed carry of weapons. Thanks to DeSantis, angry shoppers mumbling to themselves at Publix can hide weapons of war in their backpacks.
One doubts that many residents of Florida lose sleep over drag queens. (I don't think about drag queens for months at a time.) But strictly regulating them is a DeSantis obsession he includes in his blueprint.
Of greater concern are his unhinged attacks on business, and of all businesses, his state's biggest private employer and taxpayer, The Walt Disney Co. As for his jihad against Disney, I simply can't explain it.
Then there's his ban on vaccine mandates. He even mocks Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed program for developing a COVID vaccine, one of the former president's few glories. With the virus largely corralled, there are few mandates anymore. But in the jaws of the pandemic, DeSantis forbade cruise companies operating in his state from requiring proof of COVID shots. Can you imagine the strain on businesses trying to lure older customers to a crowded ship during a potentially deadly pandemic?
DeSantis has apparently never held a serious job in the private sector.
Now onto Florida politics. Florida has not become a solidly red state as pundits confidently declare. Barack Obama won the state twice, and a Democrat just got elected mayor of Jacksonville, the state's largest city. Joe Biden thinks Florida is up for grabs in 2024, and his political antennae are pretty sensitive.
As for DeSantis' commanding victory in 2022, he was running against a ghost candidate and a Democratic Party that couldn't fi nd a pulse. In 2018, he defeated Andrew Gillum, an ethically challenged Democrat who had called for abolishing ICE, the immigration enforcement agency. Even then, he won by less than a point.
Densely populated South Florida is not the American South. It teams with migrants from the North who may like Florida's lower taxes and its weather in February. And they may dislike left fringe ideas on gender pronouns and such. I know lots of these people, and one thing they want is access to abortion. And their reasons go beyond wanting a way to end their 16-year-old daughter's unwanted pregnancy. They can afford to do so, even if that means a trip back to New Jersey.
But they do understand that abortion bans force mostly poor women into having children they can't afford. Unwanted children living in poverty are more likely to fall into lives of crime and other dysfunction. These voters know that even in a state with a meager social safety net, the bills come to them.
Meanwhile, Florida is one of only 11 states that hasn't expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, thanks in part to DeSantis. That's even though the state would never have to bear more than 90% of the cost.
And who pays for the unnecessary emergency room care — for the sore throats or a couple of stitches? Guess who. By the way, Florida has the most expensive emergency room care in the country, averaging $3,102 a visit.
If Florida Democrats fi nd an acceptable candidate, they might just recapture the governorship. America probably doesn't want to become DeSantis' Florida. Florida may not like that either.
Harrop, who lives in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island, writes for Creators Syndicate: @FromaHarrop and email@example.com.
One doubts that many residents of Florida lose sleep over drag queens. (I don't think about drag queens for months at a time.)
Iattended two graduation ceremonies earlier this month, including a University of Georgia gala replete with fi reworks at Sanford Stadium in Athens. At both events, I was struck with how many more women than men crossed the stage.
As my husband saw the Georgia grads line up in our daughter's major, he joked if she had wanted an all-women's environment, she could have saved us all the parking fees (and parking tickets) by walking the four blocks from our house to nearby Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.
Afterward, I looked at the latest enrollment data for the spring semester that just concluded. The total University of Georgia undergraduate and graduate enrollment was 39,373 students, 59% of whom were female.
The gender tilt in favor of women is even more pronounced at other public campuses in Georgia. Females comprise close to 70% of the enrollment at South Georgia State, Valdosta State University, the College of Coastal Georgia, the University of West Georgia and Georgia Southwestern State University. Three-quarters of the students at Albany State University are women. Nearly 60% of the students at Georgia Southern University are female.
The numbers are similar at some of Georgia's largest private universities. About 60% of Emory University's students are women. Nearly 77% of Clark Atlanta University's undergraduate students are women.
The sole campus in the University System where males outpace females is Georgia Tech, which is nearly 68% male. The only school with gender balance is Kennesaw State University where women account for slightly more than half of the enrollment. The ratios at those two campuses likely reflect their specialty areas that still tend to draw more male students, such as engineering, computer science and construction-related fields.
If you want to understand the prevalence of women at public campuses, go back to the high school pipeline. The pipeline leaks too many kids along the way to college enrollment, especially boys.
In March of this year, there were 58,640 male 12th graders in the state's public schools, according to the state Department of Education enrollment updates. (The total number of 12th graders statewide in March was 117,497.) When these current 12th graders began high school, there were 75,454 boys in the mix. That means 17,000 of those freshman boys who where there in the spring of 2020 vanished by their senior year — more than 1 out of 5.
These boys may have moved or dropped out. Some died. Suicides are surging among male teens and young men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We also are losing boys to guns. Boys accounted for 83% of the 2021 child and teen gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, according to an April Pew Research Center report. The car crash death rate for male drivers ages 16–19 years was three times as high as the death rate for females in the same age group in 2020, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data.
Yes, girls also fall off the path to high school completion, but not at the same rate. In the March enrollment count, this year's 12th grade class included 58,857 girls, down from 69,471 four years ago in the freshman class. That is a fade out of 10,614 female students since March of 2020 or 15%.
Nationwide, concern is growing over a widening gap in male and female academic attainment. Among the disparities revealed in federal data: For every 100 women enrolled in U.S. colleges at all levels, 77 men are enrolled. For every 100 women who earn a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, 74 men do. While 51% of women graduate college within four years, only 41% of men do so, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
A typical response to these disparate academic trends is that men can succeed without a college degree. And they can if they go into a narrow slice of high paying blue-collar jobs, including plumbing, HVAC and construction.
Still, despite the increased public skepticism about whether a college diploma is worth it, the median economic value added from a bachelor's degree doubled over the value of a high school degree after 1983, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, famously once contended that a college degree was overhyped, proclaiming: "Welders make more money than philosophers." It wasn't true then or now.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that welders now earn a median salary of $47,540, while college grads in philosophy earn $55,000.
Economist Richard Reeves, author of the bestselling book "Of Boys and Men," cites a raft of alarming data that suggest men and boys are adrift, from being less likely as single young adults than their female counterparts to buy a home and more likely to live with their parents.
College grads not only make more money on average, they live longer. My uncle was a self-employed plumber who used to tell me and my brothers that he spent a lot of his days in crawl spaces and had the bad knees to show for it.
"Go to college," he advised us. "The view is nicer, and it's easier on your back."
Downey writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.