Dispatches from the leaf-blower war

In the aftermath of the attack on Sen. Rand Paul, allegedly in some sort of dispute over landscaping between neighbors in their gated community, we have no choice but to give the benefit of the doubt to unnamed political analysts who tell CNN there’s a more sinister situation. A war of leaf blowers.

One GOP strategist said he was mystified by the idea that a former anesthesiologist — someone who dealt with life-and-death situations and had little margin of error in his practice — would allegedly tackle a fellow doctor and cause such severe injuries.

“I think the story is the weirdness of the story. It’s about lawn clippings and he crushes … his ribs?” one GOP strategist said incredulously. “That’s the story?”

Another GOP strategist questioned whether the “coastal elites,” particularly reporters, were failing to understand “the leaf blower wars that take place all across Middle America.”

If it can happen in Wisconsin, there’s no reason why it can’t happen in Kentucky.

Maybe this is a war. Newton, Massachusetts — just outside of Boston — seems to be a battleground, according to a Boston Globe story today in which city officials say they’ve never seen the degree to which neighbor is turning upon neighbor with their leaf blowers.

Efforts to restrict the noise level and use of blowers have only made things worse. Police say they get so many reports of disputes over leaf-blowers, they’re worried they won’t be able to respond to serious crime.

The leaf-blower vigilantes don’t seem to be helping.

On a recent afternoon, Bray steered her bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle through Newton’s residential streets, in search of the telling rumble of an illegal blower.

“Excuse me,” she said, stopping at one point to approach a pair of landscapers working in a residential yard. “Are you aware of the leaf blower law in Newton?”

Admittedly, her approach has rubbed some the wrong way. In the past year, Bray said, she has been bullied, threatened, and dubbed “Wrinkle-stiltskin.” Not long ago, she received a confusing late-night call from someone inquiring about buying a leaf blower. Turned out, a fake ad had been posted on Craigslist: Leaf-blowers for sale, contact Karen Bray.

She actually got a kick out of that.

Landscapers, though, have been less amused, likening the group to a band of vigilantes — a claim bolstered by an incident in August in which a landscaper reported being assaulted by a resident who was attempting to take photographs of the company’s equipment.

The resident denied getting physical, and no charges were filed. But the episode has done little to cool tempers.

Meanwhile, some right-wing news sites say the Paul dispute has nothing to do with landscaping and was a political attack.