“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
When I was a kid, lawn mowers worked. You pushed them and they cut grass. The grass went into the bag. Then you emptied the bag. The results were great. There was no grass to rake. It all went into the bag, because that’s what lawn mowers did.
Then the feds got involved. Or so I now gather. I didn’t know this for a long time. Every time I would buy a mower, I would be disappointed in the results. I kept buying mowers with ever-larger engines. Then I would buy them with different bag designs, and then a different brands, and then different features. Nothing worked.
The problem was always the same. I would mow and most of the grass would go in the catcher. But some didn’t. Some landed on the lawn in a line. When the grass was wet, it left an even bigger trail. Or when I would go from the grass to the sidewalk, a big clump would fall out from underneath the mower onto the sidewalk, requiring that I get a broom and sweep it up. Then I would have to empty the bag long before it was full.
It took me many years of thinking to figure out the problem. After all, I never had this problem when I was a kid. Have companies started making lawn mowers that don’t work? Are manufacturers worse than they used to be? It all seems crazy. I would mow with a smartphone in my pocket that could check my blood pressure, make the sound of a flute or surf the Web. Why can’t private enterprise seem to make a mower that works?
I would try to forget about the problem, adjust to the downgraded reality and finish up the growing season. But the next year, it would all come back to me. Grass trails. Clumps on the sidewalk. Emptying too often. Buying a new mower and finding the same problem all over again.
What is the source of the problem? The spinning blade cuts the grass and creates a flow of air that lifts the grass and throws it into the catcher. A flow requires circulation, and where does the circulation come from? It can’t be a vacuum seal. You can’t create a small wind tunnel without a source of air. Where is this coming from? Nowhere. The base of the lawn mower is flush against the grass. The blades spin but create no suction effect.
Why is the base so low to the ground? I tend to mow my grass pretty low just because of the variety of grass and the topsoil level. But doing this causes a perfect seal between the mower and the ground, cutting off all airflow and denying the blade the air it needs to create the wind tunnel to empty the grass.
It is pretty obvious, right? So why have manufacturers not responded by raising the steel casing on the lawn mower? Why would they keep selling mowers that don’t work well? I’m hardly the only person who has the problem. Lawn mower forums all over the Internet are filled with people asking exactly the same questions and having the same symptoms. The manufacturers are shy to mention the real reason. They talk about changing blades, removing obstructions and things like that. Users know better. There is another factor.
I was just looking at the detailed regulations for lawn mowers. In particular, the relevant passage is 16 CFR PART 1205 — the Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers. Here we find that the height of the lawn mower case must be low enough to pass a “foot probe” test. No matter how high or low the wheels are adjusted, it cannot be possible to stick your foot under the case.
Now, when I was young, you could stick your foot under the mower. We didn’t do that, of course, but we could. Therefore, there was suction. The air sucked from underneath and swirled up and out in the grass catcher. It was like running a vacuum cleaner over a floor. It shaved the grass, and not one grass blade was left anywhere in sight. It all went into the catcher.
The new regulations, which apply only to walking mowers that you use at home, went into effect sometime after 1982. I still used my old mower for years after that date. I fact, I didn’t have a reason to buy a new one until about 15 years ago. That’s when my troubles began.
Now I know the cause. The bottom line is that federal regulations have degraded the lawn mower. In the name of safety, the government has forced all manufacturers to sacrifice functionality. They are forced to sell equipment that doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. All the while, I’ve been blaming private enterprise. It turns out to be the fault of government.
The government’s central plan for walk-behind mowers is mind boggling. That bar you have to squeeze and hold on the handle to make the wheel move? Mandated by government. That annoying plastic piece that covers the blow hole for the grass that you have to push out of the way? Mandated by government. The government has mandated the blueprint for the whole machine and thereby frozen its structure in place with an inferior and unalterable design.
It is not enough that regulations have invaded the bathroom, ruined our showers and toilets, degraded our detergent, made it ever harder to unclog drains and made essential medicines hard to get. Now I find that regulations have even made it difficult for me to do something completely American like mow my own lawn!
This also explains why so many of my neighbors are using lawn mowing services that have giant riding lawn mowers. It turns out that these particular regulations do not apply to them. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that lawn services were actually instrumental in lobbying for these safety regulations. This is how commerce works these days: Compete for a while, but when that doesn’t work, turn to the government to wreck the competition.
Government hates lawns — except at the White House, of course. They consider private lawns to be wasteful and vain, a symbol of conspicuous consumption. If they had their way, we would all have rocks in our front yards. Or maybe we wouldn’t have front yards. We would have little window boxes, and surely that would be enough for us.
It’s all in the interest of your safety. And security. What about your freedom? It’s been mowed under, and it landed like clumps of grass on the sidewalk.