Trump’s Judges, Urban Rail Systems, Good Advice for Graduates, and HBO’s ‘Girls’

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Trump Names Judges. President Donald Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was a major accomplishment for the new administration, but it’s possible that lower court appointments will matter as much or more in the long run. That’s why it was significant that Trump appointed 10 judges to lower courts on Monday. Also important, as the Daily Signal points out—many of judges are young, at least by the standards of federal judges: in their 40s and early 50s. “They all appear to be bright, young, capable conservatives who promise to be outstanding judges; some are already judges,” said John Malcolm, with the Institute for Constitutional Government at The Heritage Foundation. Still, Trump has a long way to go. The federal courts currently have more than 120 vacancies. Some court-watchers say that Trump will have to be diligent and persistent to fill these vacancies during his term in office.

Go Light on Rail. Economic conservatives often fight urban rail systems, and for many good reasons. They are enormously expensive. Even small rail systems cost billions of dollars to build. They tend to enlarge the size of local government bureaucracies. They usually require ongoing subsidies, as ridership revenue almost never covers expenses. Aaron Renn, writing for the Manhattan Institute, says only a few American cities—such as New York, Boston, Washington, and Chicago—have the population density for rail to make sense. He says the rail systems in Washington, Boston, and San Francisco have a combined total of billions of dollars in deferred maintenance. The bottom line: Buses and carpool lanes are a better investment than rail for the vast majority of American cities. This study is eye-opening, with massive political, cultural, and economic consequences.

Good Advice. It’s commencement season on college campuses across America, and we’ll no doubt be subjected to speeches imploring the new graduates to “follow their dreams” and “reach for the stars.” Bad advice, say James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley. Writing for National Review, they say students need to be told to “right size” their expectations. They need to know that hard work and perseverance and such qualities as “honor” and “common sense” still matter. In an era in which media celebrities such as Tomi Lahren rise and fall and are looking to make a comeback all before the age of 25, we need to pay more attention to what Eugene Peterson called “long obedience in the same direction.” That’s the idea that committing yourself to a craft and a career and the development of character over a long period of time is what produces true significance. I commend Piereson’s and Riley’s article to you, and to any recent graduates in your life.

Lessons from Girls. Do you watch the HBO television program “Girls”? Good. Me, neither. I don’t subscribe to HBO, but it occasionally shows up in hotel rooms I am forced to occupy, and I’ve seen a few minutes of the program. That’s usually all I can take. However, I’m also aware that it has become something of a pop-culture phenomenon, and its creator and star Lena Dunham has become a spokesperson for a generation. That’s why, while I wouldn’t recommend the show itself, which aired its final episode a few weeks ago, I do recommend what Peter Augustine Lawler says about the program. For all its faults and indulgences, Lawler says, the program is at least honest enough to admit the deep wounds and flawed worldview of its characters. Here’s a sample of Lawler’s critique, the whole of which I commend to you if you want to understand why this program has become a touchstone for 20-somethings: “In the final episode of the second season, Hannah’s obsessive-compulsive disorder returns, as one of many symptoms of a dark, wounded, hyper-narcissistic soul. The scene where Hannah regresses to infancy and is rocked like a baby by her savior, Adam, is really quite something—something Christopher Lasch describes in The Culture of Narcissism. And who can deny that Adam (who has been as screwed up as, and in some ways more brutish than, the other characters) has become, in a way, both redeemed and a redeemer by freely assuming the responsibility of personal love?”

Image courtesy of adamkaz at iStock by Getty Images.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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  • jason taylor

    We can’t all dream big. What if someone’s “dream” is to be an Olympic gold medalist? That is a laudable enough dream as far as it goes . Except by definition it excludes everyone else.