Today is the birthday of Benoit Mandelbrot (b 11-20-1924, d 10-14-2010), a mathematician and discoverer of the Mandelbrot set and studied fractal geometry. He was Sterling Professor of Mathematical Science at Yale University, the oldest professor in Yale’s history to receive tenure. Below is an image of the Mandelbrot set. You can go here to view an animation of the set.
Articles Posted in Something completely different
Exxon and Trump
From The Hill:
At the rally in Arizona on Monday afternoon, Trump had said he could easily out-fundraise Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden if he just reached out to oil and Wall Street executives.
“Don’t forget, I’m not bad at that stuff anyway, and I’m president. So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon. I don’t know,” Trump said before playing out a conversation.
Democracy in America
From Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835-1840:
“Political parties in the United States, like political parties everywhere, feel a need to rally around an individual in order to communicate ore effectively with the masses. Thus they generally use the name of the presidential candidate as a symbol: they make him the personification of their theories. Hence the parties have a great interest in winning presidential elections, not so much in order to secure the president’s aid in achieving the triumph of their doctrines as to demonstrate by electing him that those doctrines enjoy the support of the majority.
“Long before the appointed date arrives, the election becomes everyone’s major, not to say sole, preoccupation. The ardor of the various factions intensifies, and whatever artificial passions the imagination can create in a happy and tranquil country make their presence felt.
Debate, Argument and the Rule of Law
Last night I watched the presidential debate. This morning I watched the Texas Supreme Court oral argument in State of Texas v. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, in which the Texas Attorney General is seeking to enjoin the Harris County Clerk from mailing out applications to vote by mail to all voters in Harris County.
Webster’s defines argument as “a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view; a form of rhetorical expression intended to convince or persuade.”
Webster’s defines debate as “a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides; a contention by words or arguments.”
Texas Reconstruction and the Semicolon Court
I have been reading Stephen Harrigan’s history of Texas, Big Wonderful Thing. Great read. I just finished Harrigan’s discussion of the period of Reconstruction in Texas after the Civil War. Two things struck me: first, in the Black Lives Matter era, how we are all being drawn into re-examining our country’s history of discrimination against African Americans; and second, how divided Texas was, both before and after the Civil War, on the issues of slavery and race relations.
After Lincoln’s assassination, his successor Andrew Johnson appointed Andrew Jackson Hamilton as provisional governor of Texas. Hamilton was a former Texas Congressman who opposed secession and escaped Texas during the war. A delegation was then elected in 1866 to write a new Texas constitution. The delegates refused to ratify the 13th Amendment and wrote into the constitution that Blacks would not be allowed to vote, hold office, or serve on juries. Texas voters ratified the constitution in June 1866 and elected a new governor, James Throckmorton, who fought for the South in the war. The newly elected legislature then passed laws known as “black codes” further limiting rights of African Americans. For example, a law required that all Black household servants “shall at all hours of the day or night, and on all days of the week, promptly answer all calls … to be especially civil and polite to their employer, his family and guests.” Continue reading →
Thoughts on Social Distancing
What a month.
We are all under the illusion – especially in the West – that we have some control over our lives. COVID-19 has reminded us to the contrary. It is humbling. We can’t see into the future, but what we can see does not look good.
We are asked to stay home, to practice social distancing, to halt commerce and tank the economy. All to prevent something that seems (until recently at least) distant and contingent. We are learning that the only way to prevent the spread of this virus is to act preemptively, before it has attacked. This goes against our instinct as humans. Social distancing has reminded us that we are social animals, that we crave human contact. Conference calls and video conferencing are a poor substitute.
I highly recommend a podcast sponsored by Texas Monthly, Boomtown. It’s a series about the history of the Permian Basin and the people who live and work there in the recent boom. Its host is Christian Wallace, who grew up in Andrews. You’ll get to meet his grandmother, who still lives there – quite a lady. You can download it on Apple Podcasts.
Two Fun Resources
A friend recently told me about two great websites: www.oilystuffblog.com, and www.shaleprofile.com. The first is a fun read authored by Mike Shelman, “Oily Humor & Short Stories About a Very Long, Oily Life.” Here’s a post about “BOE,” or “barrels of oil equivalent.”
Shale Profile is a subscription site, but it has a lot of free information about shale plays in the U.S. A remarkable interactive use of big data. Here’s an example, a snapshot of all production in the Permian Basin:
Last Saturday our firm participated in the annual Austin parade celebrating Juneteenth, the day in 1864 it was announced in Texas that all slaves were free. The parade is the biggest in Austin, a celebration of freedom that has become a state holiday in Texas and 44 other states. June 19 also is my mother’s birthday.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. It declared that all slaves in the Confederate States would be free – excluding the five border states not in rebellion, and excluding the three zones then under Union occupation – Tennessee, lower Louisiana and Southeast Virginia.
Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1864, but the Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2. Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived on Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops on June 18, to occupy Texas. The following day, from the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa (see photo), Granger read aloud General Order No. 3:
Vote for Me!
My blog has been nominated in The Expert Institute’s 2018 Best Legal Blog Contest! I’m in the category “Niche & Specialty.” And I have one vote already! So vote early and often.