Saturday, February 19, 2011

Michelle Malkin is Lying and a Wisconsin State Journal Headline Writer Struggles for Clarity

But then there's this report from the Wisconsin State Journal.

The security paid off. There were no arrests, according to Joel DeSpain, a spokesman for the Madison Police Department. Nor were there any injuries, he added. DeSpain, who for part of the afternoon watched the swirling crowd from a Capitol Square rooftop, said he was impressed that such an enormous, emotional political gathering could play out so peacefully.

Oh, and about that headline.

Opposing sides face off at Capitol in biggest day of protests yet.

WSJ People, there weren't enough pro-Walker faces (and noses and toes) to go around.  We had them outnumbered by more than 50 to 1.  Most of the labor rally participants simply ignored them -- or snickered at the pathetically small size of their turnout as we paraded around the Square in an unbroken line.

Fox News Will Lie About This Event

Someone carried a poster with the title words of this blogpost on it at today's massive labor rally in Madison, Wisconsin.

And Fox News wasted no time today in proving them true.

Thousands of protesters on both sides of an epic budget standoff in Wisconsin faced off Saturday at the Capitol. [Emphasis added.]

Thousands at the pro-Walker event?  Maybe a thousand.  The group filled most of the sidewalk leading to the east entrance of the Capitol.  And after my fourth stroll around the Square, I saw nearly as many pro-labor signs in this area.  According to a Capital Times report, Matt Batzel, state director of American Majority, the conservative group coordinating the rally, said "It's time for the voices of the Wisconsin people to be heard."

Huh?   Wha?

Matt, what the hell do you think has been going on ALL WEEK?

I attended all but one of the rallies this week, so I have a clear sense of how the crowd size grew day by day.  45,000 showed up yesterday, and today's day-long pro-labor/anti-bill rally probably attracted at least twice Friday's number from mid-morning to late afternoon.  My wife and I spent time on the Square and State Street from 10:30 until 5:00.   And when we left, people were still arriving.
Fox News and Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald can make stuff up as they go along, but those of us who have participated in this historic series of events recognize it all as just so much

And so should everyone else.

Brown County Committee to Consider 5-Step, $14 Million Upgrade to Address Library Code Violations

New plan calls for up to $14 million in repairs for the Brown Co. Library. (Green Bay Press-Gazette, 2/19/2011)

Excerpt: The cost of making the Brown County Central Library handicapped accessible and completing other infrastructure repairs at the building will be about half the cost of complete renovation.

Boldt Construction of Appleton said a five-phase upgrade would cost $12 million to $14 million if the County Board approves it. Complete renovation of the facility was expected to cost $23 million, a price tag that supervisors said was too expensive.

"It still doesn't get us the renovation," said Library Director Lynn Stainbrook. "There's a lot of stuff that's not being done. But these steps will help bring us up to code.

Boldt's proposal is expected to be presented to the county's Education & Recreation Committee at its April 7 meeting

Related articles:
Speaking up for the Brown County library renovation. (12/5/2010)
Aging library needs to address code violation.  (11/26/2010)
$600,000 for code compliance is cut.  (11/3/2010)

Friday, February 18, 2011

House Delays Vote on Patriot Act Provisions

Congress delays debate on Patriot Act and privacy. (Boston Globe, 2/18/2011)

Excerpt: Congress yesterday gave itself three more months to consider changes in provisions of antiterrorism law that have been used to track security threats but have drawn fire from defenders of privacy rights.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill before the provisions expire on Feb. 28.

At issue are law enforcement powers to set roving wiretaps to monitor multiple communication devices and to ask a special federal court for access to “any tangible thing’’ — from business records to library checkouts — that could be relevant to a terrorist threat. The third provision, from a 2004 intelligence act, gives the FBI court-approved rights for secret surveillance of non-American “lone wolf’’ suspects not known to be tied to specific terrorist groups
.  [Emphasis added.]

Related article:
Big oopsie for Young Gun and House Whip Kevin McCarthy.  (2/8/2011)

Mourning the Loss of Bob Slate Stationer and Musing on the Role of Library Preservation

A love story: A family’s memories, thanks to a stationery store, by Joan Wickersham. (Boston Globe, 2/18/2011)

Excerpt: Paper may be cumbersome and old-fashioned, but it endures.

Libraries wrestle with how to preserve and store documents in an era when fewer and fewer documents exist as physical objects. How can websites, blogs, e-mails, and text messages — the written records of the early 21st century — be saved now for future historians, who will be interested not only in the famous but also in the mundane ways in which we all record and describe daily life?

Among the thousands of objects preserved in Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, devoted to women’s history, is Amelia Earhart’s baby book, a white leather volume with gold letters that spell out, grandly, “BABY’S KINGDOM.’’ It’s fascinating both for its importance and its unimportance: an artifact of a great woman, but also a glimpse of early 20th-century attitudes toward motherhood. Today a new mother might keep a blog. But a blog is just content, with no physical embodiment. A book can survive because the content is united to an object: paper.

Much as I appreciate the speed and convenience of e-mails, blogs, and phone calls, I will never happily say goodbye to paper, my first, and enduring, love. And while I can probably find some nice virtual stationery stores online, I will mourn Bob Slate when it closes: the actual physical store, where I used to buy the beautiful physical object

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Eileen Bruskewitz is Hallucinating

Excerpt: Eileen Bruskewitz sees a steep, uphill battle ahead, but she believes she can persuade liberals to vote for her in the April 5 election for Dane County executive.  (Wisconsin State Journal, 2/17/2011)

And what was her first effort at persuasion?   She voted against a Dane County Board of Supervisors resolution in support of workers rights.  The resolution passed 27-4.   Oy vey!  

Expect her to be booked on Fox News.

Buckstaff, 1850-2011(?)

Buckstaff faces foreclosure. (Oshkosh Northwestern, 2/16/2011)

Excerpt: Longtime Oshkosh furniture manufacturer Buckstaff Co. faces foreclosure of its South Main Street factory from a bank that is seeking to recoup more than $1 million it lent to the firm.

Martin Cowie bought Buckstaff Co.'s operations in 2007, just as the maker of classroom, library and other institutional furniture was about to succumb to bankruptcy. Four years later, Citizens Bank filed a civil suit in Winnebago County Circuit Court against Cowie and the companies he created to purchase Buckstaff — Oshkosh Industries Inc. and Oshkosh Furniture LLC.

The status of the business itself was unclear Wednesday, as Cowie did not return messages left for him. But a Buckstaff employee who declined to be identified said utility crews shut off power at the company's South Main Street complex shortly after noon Wednesday. At least four Wisconsin Public Service Corp. trucks were on the property early afternoon

More Evidence that the Northwestern Editorial Board Has Changed Dramatically Since I Lived in Oshkosh

Photo by Stephanie Ricks

Editorial: Budget bill anything but repair for Wisconsin. (Oshkosh Northwestern, 2/15/2011)

Excerpt:   The problem with Gov. Scott Walker's state budget repair bill isn't what it ends, but what it begins. If it ended at simply requiring public employees in Wisconsin to pay a higher share of health insurance and pension costs, it would be a tough, but reasonable and appropriate response to a projected $3.6 billion budget deficit.

Truth be told, the bill is the beginning of an effort to roll back the right of workers. Its lesser-known provisions set a dangerous precedent for granting the executive branch broad emergency powers where an emergency does not exist. The speed in which the bill is heading from proposal to adoption is also of concern. It is slated for a vote Thursday, just six days after it was released to the public. The fact that a national special interest group, The Club for Growth
[follow the ideologues and sign up for their email alerts], began broadcasting ads in support of the proposal at the same time the bill was released shows that this is not a homegrown effort to fix Wisconsin's problems, but an orchestrated, ideologically driven campaign.

*Brought to you by the Koch Brothers.

UW-Extension's Building Community Capacity Through Broadband

Email message re: Clarification on UW-Extension Broadband Grants

University Wisconsin-Extension staff have received many inquiries over the past two days about whether or not our federal grants for building and expanding broadband networks in five demonstration communities statewide have been revoked. They have not.

UW-Extension’s Building Community Capacity through Broadband program is managing two grants totaling $32.3 million. The $29.9 million infrastructure grant is expanding broadband connections for key community institutions in Platteville, Wausau, Superior and the Chippewa Valley region. The $2.4 million outreach and education grant is serving those communities and the Menominee Nation.

Both are moving forward and the work is progressing as planned.

The $23 million broadband grant being declined by the state, which has been referenced in recent newspaper articles, will have no impact on our efforts.

We will have more news on our broadband grant work in March and will keep you updated through the N&I employee online newsletter.

9 Years of Book Sales: Trade and eBook

The Association of American Publishers, 2/16/2011 news release.

Personally, I think 'modest' is a better way to describe a 2.4 percent growth in December 2010 compared to December 2009 and  a 3.6 percent growth in 2010 vs. 2009.  But then it is the book industry.

Michigan Governor Introduces Budget, Asks for Shared Sacrifices

But, apparently, no stripping away of collective bargaining rights.  State employees are going to be asked for $180 million in cuts, which would have to be negotiated with unions.

Michigan budget: Snyder seeks 'shared sacrifices' from seniors, state workers, schools, cities. (, 2/17/2011)

Excerpt: Even before Snyder presented the plan to lawmakers Thursday, he was defending it, saying it would put the economically troubled state on sound financial footing.

"We're getting rid of all the special-interest kind of items," he said. "This is approaching it as a total solution."

Snyder provided The Associated Press with a copy of the $45 million budget plan Wednesday evening. It includes $1.2 billion in permanent spending cuts to help deal with a $1.4 billion shortfall. It would cut spending for public schools, universities and local governments while ending many personal tax breaks. It would eliminate before- and after-school programs, cut hundreds of state jobs and ask public employees for benefit or wage concessions.

The plan which is for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, also would drastically change the state's corporate tax structure so only large "C'' corporations pay business taxes. The move would give businesses a $1.8 billion tax break, larger than the $1.5 billion Snyder originally estimated the switch would cost.

I'm sorry, but could you run that statement about special interests by me again.

— Reduces state aid to libraries in the Department of Education budget by $2.3 million in the general fund, with $950,000 directed to the Michigan eLibrary, resulting in net savings of $1.4 million

According to the IMLS, public libraries in Michigan received 2.3% of their funding, or $10,157,000, from the state.  Michigan has 384 libraries and 64 branches.  That's an average loss of $26,450 per administrative unit.  The money is distributed by the Department of Education on a per capita basis, another sock in the gut for Detroit.

Cactus Artwork Stolen from Albuquerque Library Branch

Or so they thought.

Followup: Missing cactus discovered in landfill.

Excerpt: Vandals had smashed and unbolted the fiberglass cactus when city workers came across it a couple days ago at Tramway Linear Park near Tramway and Lomas Boulevards. The workers thought it was junk, so they took it to the landfill.

According to the city, the workers were responding to a 311 call made by a resident to dispose of a real cactus that had been knocked over. Officials are calling the accidental disposal an honest mistake.

WLA/WEMTA 2011 Library Legislative Day: The Basic Packet

Need a little nudge to get moving on your list of "To Do Before Legislative Day" activities.

Let me oblige.

But first, let me share a few preliminary thoughts.

As you are surely well aware, the political atmosphere at the State Capitol is supercharged as Governor Walker's budget repair bill works its way through the legislature.  Access to the building itself is increasingly a challenge -- but well worth the effort, I will add -- due to an ongoing series of rallies by those that oppose the bill.  2000 on Monday.  14,000 on Tuesday.  30,000 yesterday.   Another huge turnout is anticipated today.  The rallies may very well continue into next week.

In a break with tradition and, perhaps, not specifically authorized by state law, the Governor will deliver his budget address at 1:30 on Tuesday, February 22, at the Vita Plus receiving warehouse on Progress Drive on Madison's far-east side.   Which means, of course, that many legislators will have left the building by the early afternoon, and you will meet with a legislative aide.   As Tony and Michael and I repeat each year -- it's just as important to build relationships with your legislators' staff as it is with your legislator.  Don't look at this as a missed opportunity.  (When you return home, follow up with a handwritten letter to your legislator).

Another possibility.  Specifics about Walker's 2011-13 budget proposal will leak out prior to his 1:30 address and force us to revise our primary message.  This scenario, however, only reinforces our need to prepare and be ready to promote the benefits that libraries provide to all Wisconsin residents, particularly through resource sharing and technology, where state  dollars for library services are so cost-effectively used.

Tips for meeting with legislators:  As for your general approach to Tuesday's meetings with your legislators, Tony Driessen and Michael Blumenfield will provide us with an up-to-the-minute perspective during our Library Legislative Day briefing session, which starts at 8:00 a.m..  In the meantime, though, please review the linked document.

Now for what we hope will be the heart of the matter on February 22nd.

The Library Legislative Day packet  is designed to provide a framework for the conversations you will have next Tuesday with your legislators and/or their aides.  The more you prepare for this event, the greater your comfort level when you walk into a legislator's office.

To start then, carefully review this sheet.

As it states on the right-hand column, please make every effort to personalize your presentation.

We need to move beyond general descriptions of the value of libraries and provide specific examples -- "library stories" -- of how legislators' constituents directly benefit from the services and programs that your library provides, particularly as they apply to the "Common Agenda" key interests of your legislators that you have identified.

In addition, we need to tell legislators why their constituents love and value libraries and how a very modest amount of state funding helps to insure this level of satisfaction.

(SIDEBAR:  Don't be surprised if, from some quarters, you hear the response, "The state's broke!"  Actually, the state currently has a $60 billion budget and takes in revenue every day. The real issue is a need to balance revenues with expenditures, and to do that legislators need to set funding priorities.  We feel that libraries should be one of those priorities. Caveat:  The "Learning About Your Legislators" exercise will clue you in as whether you should even go here.  Sample and blank grids.)

Tell the stories behind the numbers.  We also need to move beyond just sharing the impressive use statistics that we generate and tell our legislators what these numbers mean, again in terms of direct benefits and customer satisfaction at the constituent level.

For those of you in public libraries, for example, this means telling the story behind the bar graph below by answering the question:  Why do Wisconsin residents continue to visit their local library in steadily increasing numbers?  (And remember, the mid-1990s is when we first heard the "Who needs libraries now that we have the Internet" meme.)

As much as possible, frame your answers (i.e., your conversation) in the context of our Building a Common Agenda theme.

The Central Framework:
What's important about Wisconsin libraries 
(highlights added)

What's Important red section describes the direct benefits to our communities:  public, academic, school, special.   The bullet points provide the framework for your stories about the direct benefits your legislator's constituents receive from libraries.  Use one or more of them to develop your library stories.)

What's Important orange section:  3 areas for Building a Common Agenda

What's important yellow section:  State support insures the effective sharing of resources and broadest use of technology in a way that benefits all Wisconsin residents.

Use the red-highlighted sections of each of the 3 Common Agenda sheets to develop your storylines.

Our Common Agenda:  Education

  • Education storylines to be developed in your own words (not meant to be a comprehensive list, of course.)
    • The impact of certified library media specialists on student achievement
    • School library media center as the central resource for collections and technology.
    • Summer reading programs and the prevention of the "summer slide"
    • The need for academic libraries to meet the demands of data-driven research, digital scholarship, and interdisciplinary studies. (+benefits that accrue)
    • Academic libraries provide the fuel for economic growth.
    • Libraries reach all types of learners:  preschool, elementary, secondary, technical/trade, college/university, 'returning adults', continuing education, independent learning.

Our Common Agenda:  
Job training & economic development

Key statement on Job Training page.  The Internet has dramatically changed the job search process. Virtually all employers post their openings online and require applicants to submit electronic applications. Yet, about a fifth of Americans don’t have Internet access at home, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported in June 2009.  (Here's a 2010 update.)

Two very important job training and economic development storylines:
  • Gve examples of how your library has responded to this crisis and how much these services and programs are valued and appreciated.
  • Share your own "Todd B" stories.  (You should be collecting these on an ongoing basis.)

Our Common Agenda:
Information access & technology
Information access storylines:
  • e-business & e-government.   Libraries as the "designated" access points for web-only documents and forms.
  • Sufficient bandwidth.  "..nearly 66% of public libraries report that they have insufficient bandwidth".  Provide clear examples of how this impacts on your legislators' constituents,  How does this impact the delivery of services at your library/system/consortium.  What are the disadvantages your legislators' constituents face?
  • BadgerLink:.  Tremendous cost savings to taxpayers with a statewide contract for BadgerLink databases (plus examples of their value to constituents) 
  • BadgerNet Fiber Grant.  Perhaps an opportunity to express disappointment, in neutral terms, that all parties could not come to agreement on the terms of the grant.

And finally, WLA and WEMTA support the 2011-2013 biennial budget submitted by the Department of Public Instruction to the Wisconsin Department of Administration.  You may certainly offer this straightforward statement at the end of your conversation -- after you have provided your storylines.  Asking your legislator for support will depend on your sense of how the session has proceeded, i.e., whether you have established some common ground.
Research to Jobs:  Growing the Research Infrastruture  (UW Research Commons).  Ed Van Gemert, Deputy Director of Libraries, General Library System, UW-Madison, will provide background information on this initiative at the Feb. 22 briefing.

Thank you so much for your commitment to and participation in this year's WLA/WEMTA Library Legislative Day.

Thoughts Worth Sharing from Larry Martin

Dear Family & Friends:

I feel compelled to share with you some thoughts on a matter that rises far beyond the partisan politics of the day. I also want to share with you how immensely proud my son Samuel made me today.

An incredibly sad situation is evolving here in Wisconsin. For those of you who are out of state and may not have heard, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican majorities in our state legislature are literally on the verge of eliminating one of the most fundamental rights of a free and democratic society – the right of workers to join together in a union to collectively bargain for their compensation and workplace issues.

Our family, and thousands of others in our state and nation gave their sweat, labor and yes, even their lives over our history to secure the right of a free people to collectively organize themselves for the right to negotiate their wages, benefits and work place situations. Thanks to the labor movement all of us have benefited from the establishment of the 40 hour work week, higher wages, a growing middle class, better health care and safer work environments. Today, thanks to Governor Walker, this fundamental right is under direct attack and make no mistake – it will affect us all.

This issue at hand is not whether labor unions should negotiate or make concessions during tough economic times. The issue is whether people have the basic human right to collectively bargain for their wages and work conditions. According to the Governor – the answer is a resounding no.

My Grandfather – Eugenio Fumo was fired in the 1930’s during the depths of the Great Depression for trying to organize his colleagues into a union. My Mother was a strike leader in the 1970’s for her school when public school teachers were fighting to lift their pitiful wages into family supporting careers. As a student in the early 1980’s I remember everyone in our country – Democrats, Republicans and Independents all supporting in solidarity the brave men and women of Gdansk Poland who stood up to the Communist Dictatorship for their fundamental right to organize and collectively bargain. The movement literally was the spark that lead to the end of communism in Europe.

There is no doubt that our state and nation face tough economic times that will require all of us to continue to join together in sacrifice. But the way to achieve the results needed is through leadership that brings all of us to the table, a process that involves mutual respect and good faith negotiation.

Make no mistake about this – what is happening here in Wisconsin is not about balancing budgets – it is about using the economic crises as a means to eliminate the fundamental right of workers in a free and democratic society to collectively bargain for their rights, wages, benefits and working conditions.

As horrible as the situation is, something happened today that makes Martha and I deeply proud of our son Samuel, his classmates and the community in which we live.

For the third day in a row, citizens from all walks of life and from throughout our great state descended on the State Capitol to raise their collective voices in support of the rights of workers. Madison’s public teachers called in “sick” today, effectively shutting down the public schools. Every one of them seemed to have shown up to join the rally at the Capitol. Given the schools were shut down, I let Samuel sleep in this morning. I figured he’d celebrate and relax for what was essentially a “snow day”. Instead, Samuel got up and immediately asked me to take him and a friend to school. He was going to meet up with a few friends and head down to support his teachers at the Capitol. Wow, my son the activist? When there is X-box waiting to be played? Being the good Dad, I dutifully drove him and a friend over to school. What I encountered next was overwhelming and emotional.

Samuel’s “few friends” turned out to be over 2,000 students who gathered on their school’s front steps in support of their teachers’ rights to collectively bargain. No adults, no police, no professional organizers. Just some kids who know how to Facebook and twitter. A young man was speaking from a bullhorn. Calmly and respectfully instructing everyone what their plans were and how to act and express themselves in a civil and respectful way. Then, all 2,000 students walked the 3 miles down to the Capitol. So much for young people not caring or being disengaged.

Martha and I watched with great pride as our son Samuel and his friends marched up State Street to join the rally. There they were met by what some estimate (although not the Walker Administration!) as over 30,000 citizens. The entire downtown roared with their arrival. Martha and I saw lots of union folks – teachers, cops, fire fighters, construction workers, professors. But we also saw a lot of folks from all over the state who were not union members – lawyers, business people, small business owners, clerks, professionals. By the way, tons of families too. In short, a cross-section of Wisconsin. Standing together and speaking with one voice. My grandfather would be proud and I know that my mom is of Samuel. I can’t think of a better learning lesson for the day.

You don’t have to agree with unions or even like them. But I hope you will join our family in support of the right of all people in a free and democratic society to join together in an effort to improve their lives and that of their families and communities.

PLEASE JOIN US IN RAISING YOUR VOICES IN SUPPORT. If you are here in Wisconsin – call Governor Walker (608-266-1212) and express your opinion. Call your legislators too! If you are out of state, encourage family back home to stand up in support of this fundamental right.

This is not just an attack on union workers, but on all of us. Join with us, and thousands of Wisconsinites, including the Green Bay Packers and the Wisconsin Catholic Bishops who publicly announced their support today of the fundamental right of workers to collectively organize. If you have ever had an ounce of activism, now is your time!

In solidarity,

Larry Martin

Scoti Fitz and the New York Times: Weasel Move and Curious Reporting

Angry Demonstrations in Wisconsin as Cuts Loom. (The New York Times, 2/17/2011)

Excerpt: Still, some lawmakers here appeared rattled by the crowds cramming the building.

Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican leader in the State Senate, slipped out of the Capitol Wednesday morning with his sunglasses on, head down. Protesters had gone to his home earlier in the week, forcing his family (including his wife, a school guidance counselor) to go elsewhere for a bit

Forcing?  Whaddya mean?  Busting down the door, removing them at gunpoint, and leading them away?

C'mon, Monica and Steven.  I think they left the house of their own free will.

Take a look at this series of photos by Sara Stichert.  You'll see people exercising their freedoms of assembly and speech.

BONUS ROUND:  8/23/2012

Scoti steps in it on Mother's Day, 2011.

One of Scoti's favorite songs?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vita Plus Facility on Progress Drive Should Be Easy to Secure

Limited side-street access.

Easy to keep the riff-raff out.

Now why did Walker say he wanted to give his budget address offsite?

From the Wheeler Report (2/15/2011)
Gov. Walker will deliver his biennial budget message to the Legislature at a distribution center for animal feed, supplements and base mixes at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday. It will be the first time in decades the address was not delivered to a joint legislative session in the Assembly Chambers in the evening.

The Vita Plus site (at 3019 Progress Road, on Madison’s far east side) was chosen “to highlight the goal of my administration, ensuring Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs by the end of my first term,” Walker’s office said in announcing the off-site address.

St. Croix County: A Half Century of Growth in Public Library Use

Part 55 of a county-by-county series.

St. Croix County
Population and Circulation, 1960-2009

St. Croix County, 1960-2009

St. Croix public libraries
Baldwin Public Library

Glenwood City Public Library

Hammond Public Library

Hudson Public Library

Friday Memorial Library, New Richmond

Hazel Macklin Community Library, Roberts

Somerset Public Library

Woodville Community Library

St. Croix County is a member of the Indianhead Federated Library System.

Seniors and Internet Use

Seniors Slowly Shift to Digital. (eMarketer, 2/16/2011)

Note the 'baseline':  "at least once a month".
Wonder what "at least once a week" looks like.

Excerpt: In 2010, seniors ages 65 and older made up 13% of the US population. By 2030, when baby boomers will have aged into the cohort, the US Census Bureau predicts nearly one in five Americans will be seniors—a marketing target that should not be ignored.

eMarketer estimates that as of 2011, less than half of this population will be online. But internet penetration will increase steadily as more tech-savvy boomers become seniors. By 2015, eMarketer forecasts, there will be over 26 million senior internet users in the US

A Silicon Valley View of Technology and a Post-Material Society

Opinion: Why technology hasn't led to a rise in wealth.   (San Jose Mercury News, 2/16/2011)

Excerpt:     Tyler Cowen's e-book, "The Great Stagnation," has become the most debated nonfiction book so far this year. Cowen's core point is that up until sometime around 1974, the American economy was able to experience awesome growth by harvesting low-hanging fruit. There was cheap land to be exploited. There was the tremendous increase in education levels during the postwar world. There were technological revolutions occasioned by the spread of electricity, plastics and the car.

But that low-hanging fruit is exhausted, Cowen continues, and since 1974, the U.S. has experienced slower growth, slower increases in median income, slower job creation, slower productivity gains, slower life-expectancy improvements and slower rates of technological change. Cowen's data on these slowdowns is compelling and has withstood the scrutiny of the online reviewers. He argues that our society has hit a technological plateau.

But his evidence can be used to tell a related story. It could be that the nature of technological change isn't causing the slowdown but a shift in values. It could be that in an industrial economy, people develop a materialist mind-set and believe that improving their income is the same thing as improving their quality of life. But in an affluent, information-driven world, people embrace a post-materialist mind-set. They realize they can improve their quality of life without actually producing more wealth