5 Best Friday Columns

The Internet revolts, the health care law takes a hit, and Obama gets his mojo back

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  • Christopher Beam on Ditching the Caps Lock Key   The most common "Caps Lock" users in 2010 are "enraged Internet commenters and the computer-illiterate elderly," figures the Slate columnist. It didn't use to be this way. The key was originally introduced as a "Shift Lock" button on typewriters to give typists a tool to emphasize words. When personal computers were introduced, manufacturers tried to make them as "similar to the the typewriters as possible"--hence the continued life of the key. But now, in a move that will surely be praised by Caps Lock's many detractors, Google has decided to leave the key off of their new Cr-48 notebook, replacing it with a search key. The decision to "scrap" the key may even lead to a larger movement to abandon capitalization altogether, Beam argues. After all, the letters on Google's new notebook keyboard "are all in lowercase."

  • Charles Krauthammer on Obama's Comeback  Don't underestimate the president, Charles Krauthammer warns: "He is a very smart man." The Washington Post columnist marks the "day of the Great Tax Cut Deal” as the definitive moment of President Obama's comeback. Krauthammer compares Obama's defeat in this year's midterms with Bill Clinton's own 1994 "shellacking," after which he was able to regain control a year later during the Republicans' government shutdown. "And that was Clinton responding nimbly to political opportunity," Krauthammerpoints out. "Obama fashioned out of thin air his return to relevance, an even more impressive achievement." Krauthammer refers to the claim that Obama's tax compromise lost him his liberal base as "nonsense" and clarifies that "Obama is as good as it gets in a country that is barely 20 percent liberal." In Krauthammer's opinion, Obama has just remarkably set the course to his reelection in 2012.

  • Richard Stallman on WikiLeaks' Digital Mass of Protesters  The "cyber war" raged on Mastercard, PayPal, and Amazon after the companies severed ties with WikiLeaks was merely the Internet's version of a "mass demonstration," writes the Guardian contributor. What occurred on these companies websites wasn't hacking ("playful cleverness") or cracking ("security breaking"), and the LOIC program used to disrupt the sites needed little "cleverness" in order to operate it. The better comparison for what happened to these companies is that of a mass street protest. "The internet cannot function if websites are frequently blocked by crowds, just as a city cannot function if its streets are constantly full by protesters," Stallman notes. But at least on the street, protesters have rights. On the Internet, that's not the case: users are bound in corporate contracts to Internet providers and hosting companies that can "cut us off" at any moment. "It is as if we all lived in rented rooms and landlords could evict anyone at a moment's notice," he writes.

  • Walter Russell Mead on Rehabilitating Liberalism  In a lengthy post for The American Interest, Mead ambles through more than three centuries of political movements that have identified themselves as "liberal." It's a word that's meant any number of things throughout history, says Mead: "The old snake keeps shedding its skin." What George III, Ben Franklin, Thomas Macaulay, and Franklin Roosevelt all had in common was "a belief in the individual conscience and a drive to find a creative compromise between the individual's drive for self-expression and free action and the need for a stable society." Mead goes on to say that a new, 21st-century version of liberalism is called for, one that can "build on the best of what has gone before while making adjustments ... to existing beliefs and institutions." But we should never abandon the L-word, says Mead: it "is America's word, the word that sums up in a nutshell what this country is all about."

  • Jason Mazzone on Health Care and the Commerce Clause  Does Congress have the right to tell citizens to get health care coverage? Federal Judge Henry E. Hudson doesn't think so. He ruled this week that the new health care law's individual mandate program is unconstitutional under the commerce clause of the Constitution. Mazzone, a Brooklyn law school professor, thinks Hudson's decision has the potential to change the scope and intent of the commerce clause going forward. Writing in The New York Times, Mazzarone notes that Husdon's ruling is "the first prominent judgment to say that Congress can use its power over interstate commerce only to regulate 'activity,' as opposed to a lack of action." And while Hudson's position strikes some as "a bold assertion," Mazzone thinks the argument is stronger than people realize. "All of the Supreme Court cases upholding Congress's power under the Constitution's interstate commerce clause have involved Congress regulating some kind of activity that is already occurring," he writes. "The court has never confronted a federal statute that forces people to engage in some action like this."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.