Five Best Monday Columns

Eran Ben-Joseph on parking lots, John Cassidy on Mitt Romney, Lawrence Summers on the recovery, Fred Hiatt on North Korea, and Tom Nassif on guest workers.

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Eran Ben-Joseph in The New York Times on parking lots People see parking lots as environmentally damaging eyesores, but with three parking spaces for every U.S. car, we should find a better way to live with them, writes Ben-Joseph, an urban planning professor. "We need to redefine what we mean by 'parking lot' to include something that not only allows a driver to park his car, but also offers a variety of other public uses, mitigates its effect on the environment and gives greater consideration to aesthetics and architectural context," he writes. He describes ways to make parking lots more environmentally friendly using solar power or rows of trees. And he points to ways architects have already better integrated them aesthetically and functionally into buildings they design. Those examples, though, are the exception he says. "For something that occupies such a vast amount of land and is used on a daily basis by so many people, the parking lot should receive more attention than it has."

John Cassidy in The New Yorker on Romney's bad week A series of avoidable mistakes on the Romney campaign last week have convinced Cassidy that his presidential bid is all but doomed. "The Romney campaign consists of a weak candidate and a back-room staff that would have difficulty contesting a city-council election. As of now, about the only thing it has going for it is money," he writes. Cassidy mentions Romney's poor response to Rick Santorum's big win in Louisiana. But he focuses most on the implications after Romney's campaign adviser told CNN that general elections are like an Etch-A-Sketch, in which the positions taken in the primary can be shaken away. "Even if the Mittster confines Fehrnstrom to a padded room until November, which would be advisable, the damage has been done. Come the fall, his face and words will be appearing in living rooms across the nation—on ads produced by the Obama campaign."

Lawrence Summers in The Washington Post on the recovery Though it's nearly impossible to predict with certainty, Summers writes that "for the first time in five years a resumption of growth significantly above the economy’s potential now appears to be a substantial possibility." Summers lays out the data that both make and weaken that case. The greatest risk though, Summers says, is that we'll return to pre-crisis macroeconomic policies too early. "The right approach is policies that commit to normalizing conditions but only when certain thresholds are crossed." These "contingent commitments" will provide stability to businesses going forward.

Fred Hiatt in The Washington Post on North Korea Hiatt points to the story told in a Post reporter's forthcoming book about  Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean born to parents in a labor camp. Shin was never taught concepts of love or trust, but raised as a slave until he escaped through China to the South. Such foreign experiences are likely to shock us if and when a crisis in the North reveals more stories like his. "When that happens, 'what is likely to be revealed is one of the worst human rights disasters in modern times,'" one expert tells Hiatt. He describes more details of Shin's tale and notes that it'll make reunification or crisis in North Korea difficult. That shouldn't be surprising, Hiatt says, for we already know the scope of the human rights crisis. Our policy so far has simply failed to address it.

Tom Nassif in The Wall Street Journal on guest workers and baseball Major League Baseball employed 234 foreign players last season, who all came here as seasonal workers thanks to a law that smooths out their visa process. "Farm workers are also indispensable seasonal workers. The security of a domestic supply of fresh fruits and vegetables rests on their shoulders because Americans do not, and will not, take jobs in the fields. But baseball got its own new guest-worker visa program." Nassif describes the cumbersome visa programs that makes it incredibly unstable for farmers to depend on foreign labor that can get tied up in immigration processes while crops rot in the fields. That he says, is just as important a problem to address as baseball. "If the president and Congress can find a solution for baseball, surely they can find a solution for agriculture," he says.

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