Liam Neeson on why carriages belong in Central Park, Jeffrey Toobin on finding former prisoners at McDonald's, Erika L. Sanchez on the secret anti-abortion law sweeping America, Fred Kaplan on why Putin may stand down, David Greenberg on calling LBJ a "liberal hero."

The Wire - Five Best Columns - Today's top opinions on the news

Five Best Columns
Today's Top Opinions on the News

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Liam Neeson at The New York Times on why carriages belong in Central Park. “During his run for mayor, Bill de Blasio pledged to eradicate the Central Park horse-drawn carriage business. The majority of New Yorkers, however, do not agree with him. I have been a New York City resident for over 20 years, and have enjoyed Central Park for as long. I can appreciate a happy and well-cared-for horse when I see one. It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working,” Neeson writes. “I urge Mr. de Blasio to meet the working men and women whose jobs are at stake and to start a dialogue that will safeguard a future for the horses that the majority of New Yorkers want.” Politico’s Greg Birnbaum tweets, “Morning reading for @deBlasioNYC The Central Park horse debate is now over, right?”

Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker on finding former prisoners at McDonald's. “After I handed in the first draft of my recent story about the takeover of the Baltimore City Detention Center by the Black Guerrilla Family gang, my editor had a suggestion/demand: I should also go out and interview people who had done time inside B.C.D.C. So, without any other tips, I walked to Baltimore’s gritty North Avenue and found this standard-issue McDonald’s,” Toobin writes. “It’s one thing to consult books like Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and read about the mass incarceration of African-Americans in the United States, but it’s another to see former prisoners filling the seats at a fast-food joint. My informal McDonald’s survey brought home to me how ubiquitous the experience of being in jail is in certain parts of America.”

Erika L. Sanchez at the Guardian on the secret anti-abortion law sweeping America. “Last November, a new law went into effect in Texas: abortion clinics would now be required to have an agreement with a local hospital so that patients needing treatment could be transferred. Now that sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Perhaps, until you consider the fact that it caused one-third of health centers to stop providing abortions,” Sanchez writes. “But this law, like so many others in the works, also imposes all kinds of obstacles to providers and clinics actually gaining these privileges. The end result: abortion clinics are shutting down all across the country. There is no medical basis for the restrictions. Because the pro-life movement hasn't succeeded at overturning Roe v Wade, they're focussing on generating enough red tape to shut down as many abortion facilities as possible.”

Fred Kaplan at Slate on why Putin may stand down. “Contrary to appearances, the crisis in Ukraine might be on the verge of resolution. The potentially crucial move came today when interim President Oleksandr Turchynov said that he would be open to changing the country’s political system from a republic, with power centered in the capital Kiev, to a federation with considerable autonomy for the regional districts. That has been one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s key demands,” Kaplan writes. “If Putin can win this demand—and the political, economic, and cultural inroads it would provide—an invasion would be not just be unnecessary, it’d be loony.” La Trobe University’s Nick Bisley tweets, “Interesting take on how Putin might get what we wants without conflict.”

David Greenberg at the New Republic on calling Lyndon B. Johnson a “liberal hero." “The public recognition being accorded to LBJ this spring—in the form of not just the Johnson Library’s conference but also “All the Way” and two major books about the Civil Rights Act—is about much more than a “campaign” by his partisans. It’s about an overdue recognition of his uncommon talents and accomplishments,” Greenberg writes. “Should LBJ be remembered as a “liberal hero”? If in labeling someone hero, we’re presumed to be ignoring or airbrushing his faults—then of course not. Does anyone really have heroes anymore, at least in this sense? No one can overlook anymore (for example) Washington’s and Jefferson’s slaveholding, Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policies. Maybe it’s enough to say he did some heroic things, and that, as the state of American politics today suggests, is rare enough.”

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