Saturday, April 16, 2011

Uncle Joe's Reading List

My godfather, Uncle Joe, is a retired pattern maker who lives in the South West Chicago suburbs.  A US Army veteran and former president of his local machinists union.  He worked nearly 40 years in a "small business" where he was the lead man in the shop, where he watched as the patriarch's idiot sons squandered the wealth and capabilities of the once reputable company their father had founded into a rudderless, nepotistic, inept debacle.  Had it not been for his union and benefits and funded retirement, my uncle would still be working away at a depressed wage as he approaches 70.

So it was with more than a few grains of salt that I accepted his book recommendations back in February at the Superbowl, where he and I watched together at my cousin's home (his son's house) here in Arizona, eating Brats, drinking beer, and discussing politics - he gave me hard cover copies of Jeff Sharlet's C Street, The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy and William Kleinknecht's The Man Who Sold The World, Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America.  I'd read Sharlet before and enjoy his work (link here) as he's factual, detailed, fastidious in his research, and has a conversational writing style that is easy to follow.  But Kleinknecht's title, on the other hand,  seemed a little over-the-top.  This book's cover did not lie.
Sharlet recycles a bit of his first work The Family and if you've not read Family, you might be a little bit lost at the beginning of C Street, but the work does stand on its own.  I particularly was drawn in to the long chapters on how infected the US Military is with radical Christian fundamentalists, pushing the crusading, xenophobic, end-of-days agenda against Muslims.  Frightening indeed.

Kleinknecht's premise was a good one - that Reagan's worshipers have forgotten, or have intentionally re-written the history of all the parts of this former B actor's life that don't sell well to the average-Joe American in an effort to glorify deify their former leader, when in fact Reagan
- accelerated America's slide towards mediocrity
- began the roll back of Johnson's and Nixon's civil rights and welfare initiatives
- drove the national debt ever higher with unfunded military spending increases
- presided over the beginning of the decline in corporate research spending
- began the practice of installing incompetent bureaucrats and kleptocrats into executive branch departments (like HUD, Labor and Education) where corporate and individual officials' greed went unchecked
- epitomized hypocrisy of saying he represented the common man while distancing himself from the common in his policies, actions, and political course
... but he lost me in the diatribes and tangential rants about this minor official or that minor personality who Reagan promoted or pardoned and didn't focus enough (in my perspective) on Reagan himself.  yes, to some extend a person is defined by the friends and company he keeps, but a US President has alot of company, and incompetent, dishonest, and evil people can be found in every presidential staff if you look long enough.  Granted, for Reagan's, you didn't have to look too hard, but as I was reading the book on air planes (ESPECIALLY during take offs and landings, when everyone else had to shut down their ipad and kindles... HaHa! ... and try giving an electronic book to your nephew after you've read it, and let me know how well that works for you) I kept thinking to myself "How is this much different from all the hateful; slanted, derogatory crap that Coulter, Malkin, Hannity and Beck have written about Clinton and Obama?"  Sure, Kleinknecht doesn't have a corporate leviathan like News Corp paying him as the Repugnican mouth pieces do, but that doesn't make his work more palatable.  Had he stuck more to his premise, and been less hyperbolic, I would have enjoyed his work much more.

Not sure what I'll be taking on my next trans-oceanic flight next month... but I am sure I'll have a book in my hands during take offs and landings, if I am not asleep.


  1. I think it's untenable in the long-term to disallow electronic reading devices on takeoffs/landings. I have actually read my ipad through a few takeoffs and landings. I'm not sure what the safety distinction is between a paper book and an electronic bookreading device that's switched to "airplane" mode. Both are equally distracting if that's the safety argument. A book can certainly weigh more if that's the argument.

  2. I THINK the original intent was not distraction or potential projectiles, but electromagnetic interference. I have actually been on SW and Delta flights, where the head flight attendant announces from the front of the plane "ok people, we show that there's still 3 devices on, check your pockets, turn off those cell phones, head phones, etc), so I have witnessed the draconian electronics police in action. WHY they are worried about electromagnetic interference, is a mystery to me, unless they are afraid that someone is going to try and hack into an Airbus's fly-by-wire software and bring the plane down - HIGHLY unlikely, even for a determined terrorist who had the encryption codes that Airbus OEM programmers employ, but it "could happen." A meteor could hit the plane too, but there's no contingency plan for that.

    I've seen surly, power hungry, maniacal US Air flight attendants try and TAKE books out of people's hands, and make women stow purses under seats and in over-heads in an over-zealous attempt to decrease potential projectiles and (perhaps?) distractions, when I've been on US Air regional jets (Embraers or Canadairs), but I think that has more to do with unhappy flight attendants who hate their job and the company they work for than anything else.

    I've turned on my cell phone in flight before (as did the 9-11 passengers in PA) and it works and doesn't bring down the plane. Lots of towers can all be found, when you are 7 miles above them with direct line of sight. the reason the FBI doesn't want cell phones used in flight, is it is impossible to trace a call when it bounces from tower to tower every 10 to 20 seconds, at 650 knots, so a savvy terrorist could hatch a plot, on board a plane, that could not be traced.


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