SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Saturday, March 20, 2004


In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Nelson, 2003),
by Hugh Hewitt.

(Originally published online at SU Review, Fall 2003.)

All too often I have run into Christians who rate highly in the wimposity factor: they recoil from any involvement in public affairs or the professional world, fear positions of influence and power and aspirations to such positions because of their perceived corrosive and corrupting nature, and avoid offending their secular friends at all costs. Now comes law professor and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt to demolish this attitude and approach in his new book In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Nelson, 2003). In this regard, the practical reality is that if our freedom (including religious freedom) is to continue it is essential that Christians be amongst those who are the brokers of power in our society.

It is indeed true that power and influence can corrupt anyone--even the devout. Hugh rightly recognizes this, but just as rightly points out that Christians cannot fulfill the Great Commission and be salt and light of the Earth in a society where the leadership has undermined the very religious freedom that makes evangelism possible! The maintenance of such freedom requires leadership who understands and respects freedom in the first place.

At the same time, Christians must also remember that the secular culture is not satisfied by legal and public policy arguments that rest solely upon the Bible. Hugh rightly points out that it is as reasonable for a secularist to be satisfied with a position based solely upon an interpretation of the New Testament as it would be for conservative Catholic and Protestants to be persuaded to a point of view simply because it coincides with the Book of Mormon.

Beyond this, many Christians are far too touchy and squeamish. For those who have not noticed, our popular culture is becoming more vulgar by the minute. Many Christians respond to this in the wrong way—by becoming furious and indignant. This only works to the advantage of secularists, who love to get a rise out of Christians whenever they get the chance. To be practical and to be able to deal effectively with our culture, Christians must take Hugh’s advice: “The essence of good taste is never to be offended by bad taste.” It’s always better to laugh at leftist nonsense than to be made angry by it.

It would misrepresent the primary content of the book where I to continue discussing the attitudes that Christians must have to operate effectively in the public square in such sweeping terms, as Hugh tackles this issue primarily through his specific and detailed advice about how young people with potential should operate and conduct themselves in school and at work, in order to succeed in this world and make a real impact. Indeed, In, But Not Of is highly effective because Hugh spends the entire book in the area where he so effectively operates: the every-day real world. The practical, down-to-earth (yet intellectual) approach that Hugh exhibits in his radio program also characterizes In, But Not Of. It describes important and common-sense approaches to choosing the right school, selecting the best classes, getting the right job, and building up personal networks.

In, But Not Of is not long, but it does not need to be. Every page is made to count, being full of experience and practical advice. As a mid-twenties law school graduate, I definitely fall within the book’s target audience and am perhaps uniquely qualified to say that this book succeeds in what it was designed to do. (In fact, I was so captivated by the intro and chapter titles that I interrupted my study for the bar exam just to read it through—fortunately, I still passed.) Hugh’s book revealed to me some of my weak points, gave me some practical tips, and provided me needed affirmation where I was already doing the right thing but lacked a sense of certainty. After reading this book I am now no longer so hesitant to admit that Alexander Hamilton has long been one of my heroes. This book is a simple and straightforward guidebook for young Christians who are ambitious and want to get ahead in life—and do so without selling one’s soul. Get it, read it, and then give it to a friend.

FURTHER THOUGHTS: I republished my review here, since it is no longer available at SU Review. Most likely, I'll soon modify this slighty and turn it into an Amazon review--5 stars out of 5.

(North Seattle, WA)

Friday, March 19, 2004

KERRY'S CRASH & BURN: Hugh Hewitt has been all over Sen. John Kerry for his recent snowboarding crash, which he blamed on a Secret Service agent assigned to protect him. Kerry insisted he NEVER falls down, but referred to the agent as the SOB who knocked him over. Of course, Kerry didn't use the abbreviation I've used here...

I'm glad that Hugh has been on this one. Kerry's apparent disdain for one who is out to defend him is disturbing and unbecoming of a candidate for the Presidency. It's the sort of snotty remark you'd expect from one of those upper-class yuppies you see up there on the ski slopes. You know the kind--the ones who drive up their in their fancy SUV's, staying at the top hotels, sipping their latte's at the lodge, showing off their fashionable ski apparel and the latest in expensive snow equipment. Having no use for envy politics, it doesn't necessarily bother me to see someone else with the finer things in life. (After all, maybe one day I'll have accumulated enough so that my ski trips aren't every once in a blue moon and maybe I won't be going up there with mismatched poles, really old ski clothes, and hand-me-down boots and skis.) But what DOES get on my nerve is the elitist attitude exhibit by such people.

Incidentally, Hugh's broadcast today alerted me to an item at Drudge Report on this story. Matt Drudge cites a report that Kerry crashed several times while snowboarding.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)
MORE MEMOGATE I keep reading snippets here and there about those memos from Sen. Ted Kennedy's office outlining a strategy for opposing and/or delaying various nominees to the federal bench by President Bush. The Washington Times had an article out today, discussing the dismay of some legal scholars as to the questionable strategy recommended in one memo concerning one particular judge and the affirmative action case that was pending before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

For the record, I will state that at various times in my life I've flip-flopped on the issue of affirmative action. At this point I am rather ambivalent as to whether affirmative action policies are constitutionally defensible. Regardless of my own uncertainty on that issue, the approach recommended in the memo being discussed in the Washington Times piece is clearly troublesome, as it represents what would appear to be an attack on the independence of the judicial branch.

I've come to take an interest in this case more generally, and hereby announce that I'm going to do some research on this memo incident, looking at what both sides have to say about it. I'll report back with my findings and views in a later post.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

Thursday, March 18, 2004

HOOTERS, BEER, CHURCH, AND THE LAW: Yep, this article has it all!

(Downtown Seattle, WA)
REVIEW OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE'S BOOK: Below is a review of The Supreme Court (revised ed.) that I will be posting to Amazon very shortly.


The Supreme Court (Revised and updated edition), Vintage: 2002.
By William H. Rehnquist

A Good Primer on the U.S. Supreme Court's History--Institutionally and Jurisprudentially (4 Stars)

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has recently revised and expanded his book on the history and operation of the US Supreme Court. The book comes in at around three hundred pages, and is accessible to a general reading audience. Yet, those trained in political science and the law can also benefit from this work, as it provides a nice overview of Supreme Court history and how the justices operate today.

In terms of history, the Chief Justice’s book provides brief discussion spanning from the Marshall court in the early Nineteenth Century until then end of the Warren court in the latter part of the Twentieth Century. Again, this work remains light in terms of doctrinal analysis, giving the orthodox views of cases as Marbury v. Madison (1803) and Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), and likewise giving standard, summary treatments to landmark cases like Lochner v. New York (1905) and the court’s Commerce Clause cases. The Chief Justice does a fine job in framing the historical backdrop and context in which cases like Dred Scott and Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952) were decided, discussing the Missouri Compromise and Kansas-Nebraska Act in setting up the former case and the Korean Conflict and labor disputes in the latter.

Since the Chief Justice was himself a Supreme Court law clerk for Justice Robert Jackson during the Youngstown case (aka the “Steel Seizure Case”), his discussion of that case serves the twofold purpose of covering a significant decision in separation of powers jurisprudence and describing the work of a clerk. Justice Jackson also figures prominently in the Chief Justice’s enjoyable summary of President Theodore Roosevelt’s failed “Court Packing” plan, as the book covers the history behind the appointments of many of the justices.

Being rather appreciative of Justice Jackson’s career and Supreme Court opinions, I longed for a more intimate portrayal of the man by his former law clerk, but I nonetheless realize that this book is too short for that, and likewise too short to go into detail in a great many of the areas that were touched upon. But I did enjoy his short biographical overviews of many of the justices who have served on the high court, including Joseph Story and Stephen J. Field.

For the most part, the Chief Justice gives a balanced look at the figures and cases of the court, but he does show his feelings about such cases as Korematsu v. US (1944) (an infamous Japanese internment case), as well as the Warren court’s general approach to constitutional rights guarantees for criminal defendants.

I found later chapters dealing with the Supreme Court’s administrative operations less interesting than the history, and his brief descriptions of more recent and current members of the court something read like a tourist brochure. Understandably and wisely, the Chief Justice likewise declines to discuss the events surrounding his own appointments and confirmations as well as major cases that have come before the Supreme Court during his own time as an Associate Justice and Chief Justice. (For a treatment of more recent cases and development of constitutional jurisprudence I recommend Judge Kenneth W. Starr’s First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Life.)

This newer edition is now available in paperback and it receives my recommendation.


ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: A prior post contains my review of Judge Starr's book.

Thus far I've not read any of the other books penned by the Chief Justice. They all seem to be written for a general audience, but can also be appreciated by those with a legal background. He has had an interesting tenure on the Supreme Court and I do hope that he writes a memoir.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

THIS IS THE DAY: Happy St. Patrick's Day to all! Seeing as I do have Irish ancestry--my grandmother's mother was named Nellie Vere McCreary--I have ample reason to treat myself to a Guinness tonight. I happen to be wearing my shamrock tie, which I purchased back in Dublin. I considered it a moral imperative that I wear the tie, because if I forget I'll be reduced to complaining about it for the next 364 days--when I'll next have the occasion to be able to wear it.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE... The New York Sun has an article about the wild popularity of Sen. John France! Apparently, the French can't stop talking about him and how--in true French style--they despise our President.

Now, if I were on Sen. Kerry's campaign I wouldn't be playing up an endorsement of the French folk as reason for the AMERICAN people to support him. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised if some folks on the left start to trumpet the views of the French as a sufficient reason to vote for Sen. Kerry. This would be well in line with the leftist complaint that the rest of the world hates America or thinks America is crazy or that America is a power-hungry imperialist enslaver--and that we need to do what the rest of the world says! And fast!

Needless to say, I think this is the completely wrong approach. Does anyone honestly think the French are looking out for anyone but themselves? As for me, I am probably more comfortable with my candidate receiving the NON-endorsement of the French. Mercy buckets!

(North Seattle, WA)
RETURN TO RETURN OF THE KINGS: I'm feeling very tired here this morning, due in large part to the fact I was out late last night, watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King at Cinerama with two of my co-workers. It would probably be fair to say that I enjoyed this movie even more the second time around, and the picture and sound of Cinerama just can't be beat.

In any case, I purchased a bag of "Sour Jacks" for the movie, to go along with a Coke. I've decided that "Sour Patch Kids" are far better.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

Monday, March 15, 2004

BASEBRAWL: My Sunday ended late in the evening, as I spent the remaining couple hours playing on Gamecube’s version of the new baseball game MVP 2004 (EA Sports). I coughed up the $50+ bucks for it earlier in the day. Given my novice skills, I lost my first game for the Seattle Mariners 21-0 against the Chicago Cubs. I managed to bean enough players on the opposing team to cause a bench-clearing brawl. One of the neat functions of this game is that you can also play minor league teams. Happily, I had better luck with Tacoma Rainiers, defeating the Portland Beavers 9-7 in extra innings. I’ve always loved a good baseball video game. Do I sense an oncoming addiction here?

(Downtown Seattle, WA)
ACADEMIC FREEDOM DEFENDED: I will refrain from detailed comment on this one, save for the fact that I strongly approve of the following article, published today on National Review Online.

Dr. Beckwith has written a solid work of legal scholarship, for which I wrote a positive review a year ago. My own review, however, fell far below the radar screen and thus I was spared a similar attack.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

UPDATE: Check out a fine post at Moteworthy for more info on this (including links to other blogs who have commented on this issue).

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

Sunday, March 14, 2004

THE TRUE STORY OF CONSTITUTIONAL FEDERALISM: Below is the short review of Prof. David E. Engdahl's excellent mini-treatise Constitutional Federalism: In a Nutshell (2d ed.), which I am going to submit to Amazon tomorrow.


Constitutional Federalism: In a Nutshell (2d ed), West: 1987
By David E. Engdahl

Essential to a Proper Understanding of Federalism (5 Stars)

This book is an excellent mini-treatise on constitutional federalism, written by one of the finest federalism scholars in the legal academy. It discusses federalism’s main themes and issues, and does so in a clear, cogent and concise manner.

All too often, laymen and lawyers alike wrongly refer to federalism as a synonym for “states’ rights.” Some think it simply a tool in the “conservative” constitutional scholar’s arsenal. This reviewer is an attorney who was once a student of Professor David Engdahl, and I can assure you that neither he nor his scholarship supports either of those erroneous notions. Those who have respect for complexity and nuance will have much to appreciate here.

Nonetheless, Engdahl rejects the notion of “process federalism,” a dubious notion that really isn’t federalism at all. He provides a clear overview of the concept of enumerated powers, discussing what is actually meant by the word “powers” in this sense, and also how those powers extend in legislation. His discussion of the Necessary and Proper Clause is as sophisticated as any in the legal academy. Likewise, his understanding of the Commerce Clause is much more logical and textually supportable than those exhibited by any of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Engdahl is also an expert on interstate compacts and federal borrowing and spending powers, giving readers of this work with some impressive scholarship in these areas. He also provides a much better approach to the commandeering immunity concept, as grounded in the Necessary and Proper Clause (rather than the 10th Amendment), and rightly identifies the Ex Parte Young doctrine (a part of 11th Amendment jurisprudence) as a “silly fiction.”

As noted, this book is written in the form of a small treatise, so it is not something a layperson would pick up and as easily understand. Furthermore, this edition was printed in 1987, and there have been many developments since that time, largely in the guise of the “New Federalism” spawned by U.S. v. Lopez (1995) and recent jurisprudence in the area of state sovereign immunity. (This reviewer recommends Dr. Michael Greve’s Real Federalism for a discussion of more recent federalism jurisprudence.) None of the more recent developments detract from what is contained in this book, however. This small treatise provides the law students and legal scholars with clear and well-reasoned analysis of the principles of federalism and Supreme Court jurisprudence in that area. It is highly recommended.


FURTHER THOUGHTS: Indeed, Prof. Engdahl is an outstanding scholar. One prestigious legal academic who now sits on the federal bench told me that Prof. Engdahl's 1992 Duke Law Review article on judical review--"John Marshall's 'Jeffersonian' Concept of Judicial Review"--is one of the best he's ever seen on the subject. Furthermore, his 1994 article in the Duke Law Review--"The Spending Power"--provides the best overview of the constitutional history of federal spending power. "The Basis of the Spending Power," published in the Seattle University Law Review in 1995, is an intriguing companion to his '94 Duke article. (Dr. John Eastman's more recent article on the General Welfare Clause in the Chapman Law Review is another intriguing work along these lines that I strongly recommend.)

I was very fortunate to have Prof. Engdahl for all of three courses on constitutional law during my time in law school, and enjoyed many a good conversations with him in his office on these and similiar subjects.

(North Seattle, WA)
COOP NERDLY ADMISSION ITEM #3 -- I WAS A JR. HIGH TERMINATOR! The other week I was hanging out at my parents' house, listening to my dad complain about being subjected to another episode of "7th Heaven" as my mom dutifully tuned in. I spared him the agony by inviting him to watch a tough guy flick with me--Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I've since gone through some of the DVD's special features and also watched the special edition of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

All of this brought back a flood of memories from my days at Evergreen Middle School. T2 had come out and was wildly popular. Riding the wave, I began wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses to school. Being a tall and built kid, who was known for being quiet and serious, the other kids made the connection instantly--I was the terminator! So, I would go about my business at school each day, as a junior highschool Terminator. I often used the slow head turns for effect. True, I did occasionally do my best Arnold-like impression of lines from the film, but that was purely as a joke. Fortunately, middle school kids are knuckleheads, so even though they thought it was all rather funny, they also thought it was awesome that I was like that! In fact, as a high school freshman I was asked out to a dance by a girl I went to middle school with, and she told me just how COOL it was that I used to go around acting like the Terminator!

(North Seattle, WA)