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Knee Defender inventor: It protects computers and babies

In justifying his device's existence, Ira Goldman tells MSNBC that the device is not being used to "hog space."

Ira Goldman. Inventor. 6-foot-3. CBS News screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's an enormous, overwhelming crisis occurring 30,000 feet above America.

People's most precious possessions are under constant threat from a menace that has thus far been overlooked.

They must defend themselves, otherwise these possessions will be damaged or even destroyed. The possessions I am talking about are computers and babies.

How are these being threatened? Why, by people reclining their airline seats.

I have learned this from Ira Goldman. He is the inventor of the Knee Defender, a device that locks the seat in front before its legitimate movement affects the ability of your computer to tabulate a spreadsheet or your baby to compute its 10-times table.

Appearing Wednesday on MSNBC, Goldman explained that the device is purchased reluctantly by people who are fed up with flying conditions.

"People aren't using this to hog space. They're doing it to... people have their laptop computer screens cracked, people have babies on their laps that get smacked in the head," he insisted.

Knee Defender

The solution, therefore, is to immobilize them so that Goldman and his lanky ilk can get on with their homework and/or child-rearing.

Goldman did add that with his product comes courtesy cards that you hand to the person in front as you unilaterally lock them into place.

There are even cards to download online for those who don't buy the Defender. These ask the person in front not to recline their seat. You'd think asking them might be easier.

If his arguments seem like those of a politician, this might be because he is a former Capitol Hill staff member. (He was an aide to Pete Wilson, a former California governor and US senator.)

Indeed, Goldman, who at 6-foot-3 would seemingly have knees to defend amid limited seat space, expanded his splendid mental contortions to include this: "My knees are already there," implying that the seat wouldn't be able to recline anyway. So why the need for the Knee Defender?

Sadly, Goldman didn't address the seemingly obvious aspect that, in using his device, he is actively preventing someone from using what they paid for. And what if, for example, the person in front of him has a bad back and needs to recline to ease the pain?

His answer -- and that of other (but not all) tall people who commented on my previous post on this subject -- seems to be that he doesn't care.

The device comes with a message asking for users to apply it with courtesy. Perhaps, though, it encourages a peculiar strain of vigilante justice in those who are prone to such a thing.

The enthusiasm (or not) toward this device was stimulated by an incident on Sunday in which a United Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., to Denver was diverted to Chicago. A Knee Defender user had been doused with water by a woman who didn't appreciate his draconian stifling of her seat. The two were thrown off the plane.

The Knee Defender, which costs just under $22 and attaches to the tray table, preventing the seat in front from reclining, has actually been around since 2003. Many airlines ban it, but it's not illegal. (The FAA officially "discourages" its use.)

It may be true that, as airlines have squeezed legroom to tiny proportions, the frustrations of the tall have increased. I am not short, and I certainly don't enjoy it when the person in front reclines their seat even before take-off.

But how much right does one passenger have to impinge on the free movement of another? Isn't it better to bargain first, rather than instantly clamp?

What if someone invented a device that forced tall people's heads lower so that shorter people behind them could see the TV screens better? I have a feeling they mightn't like that.