• Tarek Masoud on Egypt's Constitutional Path to Democracy  Masoud, an assistant professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, argues that in order for Egypt to transition smoothly to democracy, President Hosni Mubarak must stay in place a little bit longer. In today's New York Times, Masoud gets into the weeds of Egyptian constitutional law, pointing out that in Egypt, only an elected president can call new parliamentary elections. "A new Parliament is crucial to democratic reform, because only Parliament has the power to defang the Egyptian presidency, stripping it of its dictatorial powers through constitutional amendment," he explains. "The current Parliament--bought and paid for by Mr. Mubarak's National Democratic Party--is not fit for that task." Masoud insists Mubarak call for a new election in the next 60 days, resign as soon as the new Parliament takes over, and defer presidential power to the new Parliament's speaker until the elections. The new Parliament will then amend the constitution to eliminate the presidential powers created to sustain a dictatorship. Most importantly, Masoud argues, for all of this to work, President Obama must demand that Mubarak cooperate and give his people the democracy they want. Meanwhile, Masoud says, we'd all do well to remember that "democracy in Egypt, or any other part of the world, is not something we should fear."
  • Michael Byers on Pluto's Wild Ride  At The New York Times, Byers, the author of Percival's Planet, offers a history lesson that doubles as a stirring elegy to onetime-planet Pluto. For Byers, Pluto, which got knocked off the chart of planets when Eris was discovered in 2005, is more than just a body "most of us can't help rooting for." It was also a planet astronomers imagined before they found it. Even once Pluto was discovered, it remained an enigma, enticingly off-course and mysterious. Since the discovery of Eris, though, Pluto has lost its planetary membership card. This could be disheartening, but even in this demotion Byers finds magical, seeing it as a continuation of what made Pluto's 1930 discovery so intriguing in the first place. It's a sign, he says, that we are "part of a universe more complex, varied and surprising than even its discoverers could have imagined."
  • John Thune on the Awfulness of Health Care  Thune, the junior Senator from South Dakota, warns in Real Clear Politics that the health-care fight is far from over. Look forward, he says, to an all-out brawl between the Republicans, who received a mandate in November to overturn "the awful health care law Democrats jammed through last spring against widespread opposition," and the Democrats, who have their "fingers firmly planted in their ears ... intent upon ignoring any indication that they have made a grave mistake." Thune says the Senate's refusal to repeal health care despite the clear backing of the House, and therefore the American public, is inexcusable grandstanding. Americans know that the Democrats sold the plan using "budget gimmicks and false promises," he says; the reality is that the bill kills jobs, levies taxes on virtually every sector of the economy, and adds layer upon layer of regulations. "The Administration and their allies in the Senate have been trying to ignore the rising chorus of dissent," Thune says. "They can't get away with that much longer."
  • Joseph Nye on the Changing Nature of World Power The prolific Harvard professor who coined the term "soft power" writes today for Project Syndicate about how digital networks and increased access to information are changing the nature of power in today's world. Nye points out that "for all the fashionable predictions that China, India or Brazil will surpass the United States in the coming decades, the greatest threats may come from modern barbarians and nonstate actors." In contrast to the traditional notions of hard and soft power, future generations will conceive of clout in terms of information. "World politics can no longer be the sole province of governments," Nye writes, "informal networks will undercut the monopoly of traditional bureaucracy. The speed of Internet time means that all governments will have less control over their agendas." Nye leaves us with what could prove to be the next big buzzword: "In today's information age, upholding the freedom to access information will be an important component of smart power."
  • Dick Polman on the Resurrection of the Auto Industry  In a piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Polman cites the resurgence of the American auto industry as evidence that government intervention is both effective and necessary to "save capitalism from its worst Darwinian excesses." Profits have rebounded at companies like GM and Chrysler, and Polman draws a direct link between these instances of job creation and Obama's economic intervention in the darkest moments of the financial crisis. His article includes a Daily Show-esque rundown of false predictions from the GOP a few years back in regards to the bailout, and notes that "in some future crisis, they will begin anew, arguing on principle that we should practice laissez-faire and permit a key industry to die."