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January 31st, 2011
04:14 PM ET

Social media and Egypt uprising?

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A Twitter feed regarding demonstrations in Cairo, Egypt. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As popular uprisings sweep the Middle East, it's hard to underestimate the role played by social media and new technology.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, cell phones and even cable news outlets are putting a tremendous amount of power right into the hands of the people. And don't think for a second that the rest of the Arab world isn't watching.

For starters, these communication tools allow ordinary citizens to plan and organize protests in a way that was unthinkable just a few years ago. They can spread the word about mass protests, ensuring more people will show up. In turn, the sheer size of some of these protests makes it close to impossible for officials to stop them.

Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, these protests aren't happening in a vacuum as they might have decades ago.

When young Egyptians take to the streets by the thousands, the world is seeing it and hearing about it in real time through texts, tweets, pictures and videos. It's also why governments, such as those in Egypt or Iran, have tried to crack down on the internet and some of these websites.

In the case of Egypt, social media sites have also put pressure on Washington to act more quickly. With so much information leaking out, it became impossible for the U.S. to downplay what was going on and stay out of it.

No surprise that other dictators in the Middle East are worried. And they should be - they could be next.

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Middle East • Technology
January 31st, 2011
04:12 PM ET

U.S. role in Middle East political unrest?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

With Egyptian protesters hitting the streets for a week now, there is a growing sense of frustration at the lack of response from the U.S.

Protestors hold an anti Hosni Mubarek sign in Tahrir Square during afternoon anti-government protests today in Cairo.

Protestors hold an anti Hosni Mubarek sign in Tahrir Square during afternoon anti-government protests today in Cairo.

Many point to the speech President Obama made to the Muslim world in Cairo in June 2009.

In it, he spoke about Democracy and warned that governments can't suppress the rights of the people.

So... almost two years later - these protesters want to know why President Obama isn't putting his money where his mouth is - and openly supporting them.

It's a reasonable question.

Some in the Middle East are going even farther. The Israeli newspaper Ha-aretz writes that Mr. Obama will be remembered as the president who "lost" Egypt, "and during whose tenure America's alliances in the Middle East crumbled."

The piece suggests President Obama has been too cautious - sitting on the fence and neither embracing despised leaders nor preaching for Democracy.

But supporters of the administration say that abandoning a key ally in a time of crisis would damage America's interests in the region. What kind of message would it send to other allies?

Also, others see Egypt as a moderate force in a region of Islamic extremists like Iran. They say Egypt has helped keep peace between Israel and the Arab world.

Meanwhile, there are signs that after 30 years, the White House is quietly preparing for a post-Mubarak Egypt.

One former Obama official tells the Los Angeles Times that the administration recognizes it has to be "on the right side of history," and that it can't try to keep Mubarak in power at all costs.

Here’s my question to you: What is the U.S. role when it comes to violence and political unrest in the Middle East?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Middle East
January 27th, 2011
04:35 PM ET

Tea Party the answer to cutting govt. spending?

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Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) greets a supporter during the first meeting of the U.S. Senate Tea Party Caucus today on Capitol Hill. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

For those who thought the Tea Party was a passing fad, it might be time to reconsider:

For starters, it seems like the Tea Partiers may be among the only people in Washington who are serious about reining in government spending.

While Democrats and Republicans talk... and talk... and talk about cutting spending and reducing our skyrocketing deficits and $14 trillion national debt, some in the Tea Party have real solutions.

Newly elected Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is proposing cutting $500 billion from federal spending in just one year. To be sure, he has some drastic suggestions - including cutting $42 billion from the food stamp program and $16 billion from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also on Paul's cutting block: the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development, most of the Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. Massive cuts also for Homeland Security, the federal court system and the FDA. And that's just some of it.

Paul says he hopes he can start a dialogue in Congress about how to save the economy. It's clear that Paul and his fellow Tea Partiers are going to put some serious pressure on the republican leadership.

In fact, they already have. Look no further than Michele Bachmann's response to the president's state of the union address this week. it's unheard of to have two responses... but the republican leadership was afraid to say no.

Here’s my question to you: Is the Tea Party the answer to finally getting government spending under control?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Government • Tea Party
January 27th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Teachers grade parents on child's education?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

What if, on your child's next report card, the teacher graded you, too? A Florida state lawmaker is proposing exactly that.

State Rep. Kelli Stargel thinks public school teachers should grade the parents of students from kindergarten through third grade. These grades of "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement" would show up on the student's report card.

The Republican lawmaker from Lakeland says parental involvement is key to educating children. And she's absolutely right.

According to the proposed legislation, the grading system would be based on three things:

1. The student should show up to school on time and ready to learn, well-rested and fed

2. The student should have done his or her homework and be prepared for any tests

3. There should be regular communication between the parent and teacher

All of which seems perfectly reasonable. Some experts call it a "unique" idea, while others say teachers are in no place to judge parenting.

Florida has been trying to overhaul its public school system for years to make teachers and schools more accountable. But many parents, teachers and lawmakers aren't on board. Last year, then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a bill that would tie teacher pay to the student achievement.

The sad fact is the U.S. needs major changes like that if we want to be competitive in the global economy. And we need these changes yesterday.

A recent international test showed 15-year-olds in the U.S. rank 25th out of 34 countries when it comes to math. They also rank 14th in reading and 17th in science. This is a disgrace.

Guess where China placed? The Shanghai region finished first in all three categories.

Here’s my question to you: Should teachers grade parents when it comes to their child's education?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Education
January 25th, 2011
04:15 PM ET

What's behind America's surge in optimism?

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President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade from the Oval Office this morning. He is set to deliver his State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. ET. (PHOTO CREDIT: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As President Obama gets ready to deliver his State of the Union address in just a few hours, a new poll shows Americans are feeling better about the state of that union than they have in almost four years.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 43 percent of those surveyed say things are going well in the U.S. - that's up 14 points in just a month.

A majority - 56 percent - still say things are going badly. But that number is down sharply from 71 percent last month.

The poll shows college graduates and people in the Midwest are most optimistic. Also, urban and suburban Americans seem more optimistic than those in rural areas.

There's a partisan divide here too - with Democrats and Independents more likely to say things are going well than Republicans.

So why the sharp increase and why now?

Experts say part of the reason is the public's growing optimism about the economy.

But there are non-economic reasons at play here as well:

People are often more optimistic at the start of a new year. Other factors could include:Tthe more civil tone in political debate since the Tucson shootings, the fact that there wasn't a terror attack over the holidays, and the perception that the lame duck Congress actually accomplished some things in December.

Whatever the reason, we'll take it. And the rise in optimism means the president should be playing to a friendlier crowd tonight.

Here’s my question to you: What's behind America's surge in optimism?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: United States
January 25th, 2011
04:10 PM ET

Women politicians more effective than men?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Turns out you can add politics to the list of things that women do better than men. It's a long list.

The Daily Beast reports on a new study that shows female politicians are among the most productive and persuasive ones in the country.

This research in the American Journal of Political Science is the first to compare the performance of male and female politicians. It shows women do a better job at securing pork for their home districts and shaping policy.

From 1984 to 2004, women politicians won about $50 million more a year for their districts than men did.

As for policy, women sponsored more bills and attracted more co-sponsors than their male counterparts. The female politicians' bills also made it further through the legislative process and got more media attention.

The authors say this is because women do a better job at "logrolling, agenda-setting, coalition building and other deal-making activities."

They suggest women make better politicians because they have to. Consider that women hold less than one in five of all national seats, so the ones who make it to Washington better be pretty good.

The study concludes that in order to overcome any bias against women in leadership roles, these female politicians have to work even harder to be seen as equals.

Sound familiar?

They call their study "The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect," a reference to the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. He was also one of the greatest of all time.

The comparison here is that because of racism during Robinson's era, black baseball players had to be better than whites to make it to the big leagues.

Here’s my question to you: Why are women politicians more effective than men?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

January 24th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Competency test for presidential candidates?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The 2012 presidential campaign will soon go into high gear; but before it does, here's an idea worth considering:

What if you had to pass a competency test in order to run for president? You know, prove to the voters that you have some sort of a clue.

It might go a long way toward eliminating some of the intellectual lightweights who have tried to pass themselves off as presidential timber in the past.

An evangelical supporter of Mitt Romney is calling on Christian conservatives to consider "a new litmus test" beyond the traditional cultural issues.

Politico got hold of the memo Mark DeMoss sent to 200 pastors, donors and intellectuals on the Christian right.

In it, DeMoss writes that a candidate "should be capable of becoming president, and then competent to be the president." What a concept!

He thinks Romney is the answer - since he can raise the money to mount a campaign against President Obama, is doing well in the polls and has a business background.

DeMoss seems to take a swipe at some of the other contenders. He says a candidate's values alone aren't enough to get his vote: "my pastor shares my values, but I don't want him to be my president."

This could be aimed at Mike Huckabee.

Then there's this: "By the way, 'energizing a crowd' is also not enough; Justin Bieber can do that - but I don't want him to be president either."

Are you listening, Sarah Palin?

Putting aside this guy's support for Romney, a competency test for the next leader of the free world doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

Here’s my question to you: Should presidential candidates have to pass a competency test?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • United States
January 24th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Tucson shootings affect State of Union address?

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FILE PHOTO: The State of the Union address on January 27, 2010. (PHOTO CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In light of the Tucson shootings, it looks like we're in for a very different State of the Union address this year.

The president's annual message to Congress is usually full of partisan theatrics - one half of the room applauds and stands while the other sits on their hands. Last year, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthed the words "Not true" when the president criticized a Supreme Court decision.

Partisan rancor and rudeness were also on full display last year. Remember when a Republican congressman yelled "You lie" in the middle of the President's health care speech?

But it's highly likely we'll see anything like that tomorrow night. The mood is different this time. President Obama and other lawmakers have been talking about changing the tone of the talk in Washington. In a video preview of the speech, the president calls on the nation to "come together" and to "focus on what binds us together as a people."

And not unlike a high school prom, all of Capitol Hill is also aflutter when it comes to the seating arrangements for tomorrow night. Many members of Congress are crossing the aisle - and will sit with a "date" from the other party. Whether if any of this good will remains once the speech ends remains to be seen.

Meanwhile John Avlon writes for the Daily Beast that we may be seeing an end to the era of "hyperpartisan talking points and canned anger." Wouldn't that be nice?

Avlon points to several signs that Americans have had enough, including: Keith Olbermann's departure from MSNBC, Glenn Beck's declining ratings and loss of advertisers at the F-word network, as well as Sarah Palin's plummeting approval ratings.

Here’s my question to you: How will the Tucson shootings affect the State of the Union address?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: President Barack Obama • Tragedy
January 20th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Ready for start of 2012 presidential campaign?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

If it's 2011, it must be 2012...

And that means another presidential campaign is already under way. That's unfortunate, but we really don't have a choice.

Potential Republican challengers to President Obama are popping up everywhere.

You can spot them in the early voting states - like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina; and you can hear them weighing in on national debates, like raising the federal debt limit. What makes it worse is a lot of them are the same bunch we were subjected to last time around.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is all over the place promoting his new book, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney just returned from a week-long trip to Afghanistan and the Middle East - gotta beef up those foreign policy credentials. The country's been there and done that with Romney and Huckabee.

A newcomer, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, had already made numerous trips to Iowa by last summer.

Others are hinting they may be interested - including Donald Trump. He does that every four years.

One strategist tells Politico the potential candidates "are like bubbles in a shaken bottle of champagne. They are anxious and ready to pop."

A couple of new polls suggest Huckabee, Romney and Sarah Palin are still at the top of the Republican pack with Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Congressman Ron Paul bringing up the rear.

On the other side, the Democratic National Committee announced today that President Obama's re-election campaign will be based in Chicago starting in March or April. Here we go again.

Here's my question to you: Are you ready for the start of the 2012 presidential campaign?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election
January 20th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

More than half the states fight health care law in court

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It may be the law of the land, but there are a lot of people who want to get rid of health care reform.

The house voted 245-to-189 to repeal President Obama's signature law - with three Democrats joining the unanimous Republican vote.

The bill is unlikely to see the light of day in the Senate... and if it ever makes it to President Obama's desk, he'll veto it. Republicans acknowledge repeal is highly unlikely - so they may try to cut funding for parts of the law or eliminate specific provisions.

Democrats call the repeal vote a "gimmick."

Really? Not exactly.

It's not just house Republicans who are against the health care reform law. Not by a long shot.

More than half the states in the union are challenging the law in court. Another six states have now joined a Florida lawsuit, bringing the total in that suit to 26 states. Plus, Virginia has filed a separate lawsuit; and Oklahoma says it will do the same.

The states insist the law is unconstitutional because it forces people to buy health insurance. They might be right.

A Thomson Reuters poll shows that an overwhelming 65 percent of doctors say health care reform will mean worse care for patients over the next five years. Only 18 percent think the new law will mean better care. Those are pretty stunning numbers - better than three to one - and these are doctors.

Finally, most of the American people are not sold on this thing either. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 50% want the new law repealed. Only 42% would choose to keep it as is.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if more than half the states are fighting the new health care law in court?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health care
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