• Eric Trager on Unrest in Egypt  Writing in The New Republic, Trager divides the demonstrations in Egypt into three rounds: a first phase that saw victory for the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, a second phase in which the city was transformed into a tear-gas filled police state, and a third phase that begins today. Opposition leaders have called for protests to start up again after Friday's prayers. "It promises to be the ugliest and most violent episode of this tumultuous week," Trager writes. "After three days of demonstrations that have been dominated by pro-democratic youth activists, these post-prayer protests promise a greater voice for Islamists." Trager adds that "the greater involvement of Islamists will be a gift to the regime," making the government's case "more convincing to international and domestic audiences that fear Egypt becoming 'another Iran.'"

  • David Sirota on the New Consumerism  Writing for Salon, the author finds that Apple's first-quarter profits reveal something beyond the computer company's market savvy--namely, a trend that indicates Americans are trading up to more expensive, higher-quality goods, signaling "a paradigm shift in which buyers began choosing value and quality over bargain and volume." The change, Sirota says, is reflected across categories, all the way down to which movies people see and what clothing they buy. The upshot is that customers are buying for the long-term, which in turn has an effect on what products make it to the marketplace. Sirota concedes it will be a while before this move to quality can be declared a something greater than a trend, but if it is, it will be what he calls an "economic transformation that's long overdue."

  • Kimberley Strassel on Cap-and-Trade Immortality  If you listened for terms like "climate change" and "global warming" in the State of the Union and didn't hear them, says the Wall Street Journal columnist, you missed the obvious: the president used the term "clean energy" as a catch-all that translated into a push for wind, solar, and biofuels. The proof, Strassel says, is that the president's stated goal--that "80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources" by 2035--can only be met if companies are forced to shift how they produce their energy. What's new here, Strassel notes, is that the energy portfolio tack no longer allows companies to shoulder a tax burden in exchange for carbon output. Instead, they're being given a mandate. Further, Strassel says, the speech appeared to embrace options such as clean coal and nuclear power, but these are merely words to "lure Republicans into negotiations ... and gives cover to nervous coal state Democrats." The reality, she says, is that "these promises mean little. The president has made grand nuclear gestures, but his regulators continue to sit on projects. Clean coal remains a pipe dream."

  • Mark McKinnon on Some Potential Causes of Obama's Downfall  At The Daily Beast, McKinnon warns that President Obama's high approval ratings don't guarantee he will be reelected in 2012. He gives several examples of the factors that might make or break Obama's reelection bid. These include: the debt, increasing efforts to get rid of Obamacare, the Tea Party's refusal to back down, no end in sight for the wars, and growing Republican popularity, among other things. McKinnon reminds readers that George H. W. Bush had a 90 percent approval rating in the middle of his first term. But, as he memorably puts it, "$#&! happens when you are at the helm of the free world."

  • Larry Downes on Allowing the Internet to Self-Regulate  Larry Downes argues at Slate that the only way to regulate the Internet is to do nothing, and let the Internet regulate itself. The various exceptions to the FCC's "net neutrality" rules undermine the rules' objective, "which was to ensure a level playing field for new participants in the Internet ecosystem." The Internet moves too fast for these rules, suggests Downes, who points out that the FCC plans to review its latest rule in two years. "Two years in Internet time is an eternity," he writes. Downes compares the Internet to the American West, giving Facebook users' immediate backlash against any type of system change as an example of how Internet users are able to police themselves without government intervention. At first we may see "digital mob rule," not unlike the American West. "But over time, the posse and the hanging tree gave way to local sheriffs and circuit-riding judges. The frontier civilized itself. The internet will do the same. Only faster."