Peter Wensierski in Der Spiegel on the polarizing pope Many Germans were initially proud when Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005. But now that he's stepping down, Peter Wensierski sees his homecountry bidding farewell to a polarizing figure who prevented meaningful steps toward modernizing the Catholic Church. "Many in Germany have long yearned for an end to the Ratzinger era, no matter who might succeed him," Wensierski writes. "It remains to be seen whether German bishops will have more confidence than before to follow a more independent path. But there will certainly be more room for risk taking. Indeed, Benedict's resignation offers the Catholic Church in Germany a new chance to free itself from torpor created by this paternalistic pope and to perhaps finally find a way to begin resolving the deep crisis facing German Catholics."

Greg Sargent in The Washington Post on Ted Nugent's friends in D.C. Ted Nugent has said some pretty crazy, possibly threatening things about the President, but Rep. Steve Stockman thinks he'll be on his best behavior for tonight's State of the Union. Stockman's rock star guest has faced plenty of criticism for saying last year that he'd be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected, but Greg Sargent argues that Stockman's rhetoric is worse. After all, this is a Congressman who threatened Obama with impeachment following some fairly tame executive orders on gun violence. "The key actor here who matters is Steve Stockman," Sargent contends. "The problem lies in all the over-the-top stuff GOP lawmakers say regularly that isn’t quite crazy enough to earn widespread condemnation, as Nugent’s quotes have, but are still whacked out enough to encourage an atmosphere that helps keep millions of GOP base voters sealed off from reality."

Sam Lagrone in Wired on looming Navy cuts If sequestration goes into effect — triggering deep automatic cuts across most federal funding — the Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers will be hit hard. Sam Lagrone argues that such a scenario would hurt "the Navy’s readiness to handle the security threats of the next several years." The carriers won't be dismantled, but they'll likely be docked and unfit for deployment — one is already headed from the Persian Gulf to dock. Facing budget constraints, the Navy chose to go forward with shipbuilding rather than maintenance. The move may be good for our military's future, Lagrone writes, but only if Congress comes through with a budget deal that allows the Navy to maintain existing carriers. He writes, "If the budget stalemate extends, get ready for a Navy that frequently delays refueling, cancels deployments and generally does less with the expensive hardware it wants to keep buying."

Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on vanishing Republicans Where do Republicans go after leaving the White House (or losing a campaign to get there)? Democrats like Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Jimmy Carter have remained active in politics long after their days in office, but past Republican leaders like the Bushes and Mitt Romney have vanished from the scene. Jeffrey Toobin argues that this reveals the Republican party's struggle to leave late-career legacies of success in the post-Reagan era. Toobin writes, "At the moment, it does appear that voters will be able to see in Obama, as they did in Clinton, someone who succeeded as President or, at least, did well enough. Republicans have no such recent model. And that problem isn’t going away."

Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times on an elite LinkedIn A new company called Relationship Science is currently working to build something like a LinkedIn for elites — an exclusive networking site for the most influential and wealthy business executives in the world. Except unlike LinkedIn, and a bit more more like the TopCom platform for world leaders, members automatically become part of the network without signing up. "Relationship Science has been quietly building what it hopes will be the ultimate business Who’s Who. If it succeeds, it could radically change the way Wall Street does business," writes Andrew Ross Sorkin. "Most people use Google to learn about people and ask friends and colleagues if they or someone they know can provide an introduction. Relationship Science essentially does this automatically. It will even show you every connection you have to a specific company or organization."