January 2015

I gave my friend Noel Taylor (yes, the noted William Howard Taft scholar) a book as a New Year’s gift.

This was his response.

When you first presented me with “President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath”

Taft In The Bath (cover)

by Mac Barnett, I delighted over what I assumed would be a scholarly and well researched work that would share new insights into the life of one of our most misunderstood presidents. Lamentably, having now read the book cover to cover several times (an enterprise of only two to three minutes’ time) I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that historically speaking, Barnett is on very shaky ground. Although he notes correctly that Taft was our nation’s 27th president and accurately reports the first names of Taft’s wife and some of his cabinet members, most of the book is taken up with a graphic (literally!) realization of what is nearly universally regarded as an apocryphal tale.

I suppose the title should have given the game away, but I admit I expected more from Mr. Barnett, whose previous works such as “Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem”

Billy Twitters And His Blue Whale Problem (cover)

seem substantially more grounded in fact than this latest work. As it stands, this purported history of a widely discredited story comes across at best as a children’s fairy tale, and at worst as a character assassination of the lowest order.

The real kicker though, is that despite all of these obvious shortcomings, Mr. Barnett has once again, and at the eleventh hour, managed to spirit away from me that recognition which I have chased in futility for over 20 years now. Namely, with “President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath”, Mr. Barnett has won the Bancroft Prize!

So I ask, just who the hell do I have to blow to get a Bancroft Prize in American History?

Rants.org is grateful to Prof. Taylor for permission to reprint his review here.

An interesting bill was just introduced in the New York State Senate: open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S161-2015

AN ACT to amend the tax law, in relation to providing a tax credit to individuals for up to two hundred dollars of expenses related to the development and posting of an open source or free license program …

It’s good that it specifically cites the Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation as arbiters of what constitutes an “open source or free license program”. Here’s the full text:

STATE OF NEW YORK

________________________________________________________________________

161

2015-2016

Regular Sessions

IN SENATE

(PREFILED)

January 7, 2015

___________

Introduced  by Sen. SQUADRON -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
  printed to be committed to the Committee on Investigations and Govern-
  ment Operations

AN ACT to amend the tax law, in relation to providing a  tax  credit  to
  individuals  for  up to two hundred dollars of expenses related to the
  development and posting of an open source or free license program

  THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section  1.    Section  606  of the tax law is amended by adding a new
subsection (ccc) to read as follows:

  (CCC) OPEN SOURCE OR FREE LICENSE CREDIT.  (1)  A  TAXPAYER  SHALL  BE
ALLOWED A CREDIT, TO BE COMPUTED AS PROVIDED IN THIS SUBSECTION, AGAINST
THE  TAX  IMPOSED  PURSUANT TO SECTION SIX HUNDRED ONE OF THIS PART. THE
AMOUNT OF  CREDIT  SHALL  EQUAL  UP  TO  TWENTY  PERCENT  OF  THE  TOTAL
OUT-OF-POCKET  EXPENSES  OF  THE  TAXPAYER  USED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A
PROGRAM THAT IS PROVIDED TO THE PUBLIC UNDER  AN  OPEN  SOURCE  OR  FREE
SOFTWARE LICENSE, UP TO A MAXIMUM OF TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

  (2)  FOR  THE PURPOSES OF THIS SUBSECTION, A PROGRAM SHALL QUALIFY FOR
THE CREDIT PROVIDED BY THIS SUBSECTION IF THE CODE FOR SUCH PROGRAM  HAS
BEEN RELEASED UNDER AN OPEN SOURCE LICENSE RECOGNIZED BY THE OPEN SOURCE
INITIATIVE,  OR  HAS  BEEN RELEASED UNDER A FREE SOFTWARE LICENSE RECOG-
NIZED BY THE FREE SOFTWARE FOUNDATION.

  (3) THIS SUBSECTION SHALL APPLY TO ANY INDIVIDUAL FOR ANY TAXABLE YEAR
ONLY IF SUCH INDIVIDUAL ELECTS TO HAVE THIS SECTION APPLY FOR SUCH TAXA-
BLE YEAR. AN ELECTION TO HAVE THIS SECTION APPLY MAY NOT BE MADE FOR ANY
TAXABLE YEAR IF SUCH ELECTION IS IN EFFECT WITH RESPECT TO SUCH INDIVID-
UAL FOR ANY OTHER TAXABLE YEAR AND PERTAINING TO THE SAME PROGRAM OR ANY
PORTION THEREOF.

  (4) IN NO EVENT SHALL THE  AMOUNT  OF  THE  CREDIT  PROVIDED  BY  THIS
SUBSECTION  EXCEED  THE TAXPAYER'S TAX FOR THE TAXABLE YEAR. HOWEVER, IF
THE AMOUNT OF CREDIT OTHERWISE ALLOWABLE PURSUANT TO THIS SUBSECTION FOR
ANY TAXABLE YEAR RESULTS IN SUCH EXCESS AMOUNT, ANY AMOUNT OF CREDIT NOT
DEDUCTIBLE IN SUCH TAXABLE YEAR MAY BE CARRIED  OVER  TO  THE  FOLLOWING
YEAR  OR YEARS AND MAY BE DEDUCTED FROM THE TAXPAYER'S TAX FOR SUCH YEAR
OR YEARS.

  S 2. This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply to taxable
years beginning on and after the first of January  next  succeeding  the
date on which it shall have become a law.

(I didn’t know New York did this stuff in ALL CAPS — I guess that makes it official!)