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Inexplicably lost in all the heated scientific debate over global warming has been the most conclusive evidence of all. For reasons I cannot begin to understand, everyone has focused on meteorology and biology and physics and completely overlooked the irrefutable evidence provided by the distinctly more accessible discipline of journalism. Because even if you ignore the hard sciences — something a great many people in positions of authority seem distressingly capable of doing — and just concentrate on journalism, the proof of global warming is overwhelming. The difference is that the journalistic proof is indirect. It doesn’t take the form of temperature charts and earthquake frequencies and the migration patterns of the North American least tern. It takes the form of a different and much more compelling fact: Humans are getting dumber. It is, of course, a well-known scientific fact that hot weather makes people stupid. This is why Earth, basking in sunlight with an average surface temperature in the low 60s, has never known peace, and Pluto, stuck in the nosebleed seats of the solar system with an average surface temperature of -355 degrees, has never had a major war in its entire history. This is why the stupidly hot Middle East has been a cauldron of conflict for centuries, and minty-fresh Greenland has no standing army. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Of course, we’re all aware of this. We just don’t think about it. But if you give it a moment, you can easily call up proof from your own experience. Think about the differences between your weekend in Miami and your visit to Milwaukee. Compare Mardi Gras in New Orleans with Icebox Days in International Falls, Minn. Ask yourself how many sane people you know in Houston. Compare Idi Amin (Uganda is right square on the equator) with Dag Hammarskjold. Go to Rio. So it seems clear that human behavior could tell us a lot about whether the planet is warming. And journalism can tell us a lot about human behavior. Ergo, journalism can tell us whether the planet is warming. (1) And journalism is fairly shouting at us that we should be investing in property on Pluto. Here is just a sampling of stories I’ve held on to because I thought they might be columns. Now I have to abandon my selfish interest in their value as column fodder for the greater good of saving the planet by altruistically employing them as proof of global warming. (2) LET’S TRY THAT AGAIN Exhibit A is adult-education teacher Robert Colla, who was hospitalized in Ventura, Calif., after he tried to smash a bug with the paperweight on his desk. The paperweight, a 40 mm artillery shell, blew up and left him with severe burns and shrapnel wounds. This man was employed as an educator. He was charged with teaching things to other adults who — theoretically, at least — knew less than he. And he was trying to take out ants with artillery shells. So here’s another syllogism for you logic freaks: Global warming equals more crazy behavior. Blowing up ants with artillery is more crazy than just about any other behavior I’ve ever seen. Therefore, the global is warming. (3) Then there was John Faux, (4) arrested in Niagara Falls, N.Y., for robbing a Key Bank branch of $2,000. Faux complained to the teller that she gave him only $2,000 when his note demanded “$100 million,” and he was still arguing with her when the police arrived and arrested him. (5) And, of course, there is the absolutely lovely matched set of thieves that showed up in Buckhannon, W.Va., and St. Paul. Sarah Zabolotny was filmed by security cameras in Buckhannon stealing a rug — she just rolled it up and tried to walk out — from the courthouse to which she had gone to pay a parking ticket. And an unnamed St. Paul man, garnering community-service hours by cleaning the police department’s training facility for drug dogs, was arrested for marijuana possession when one of the dogs alerted on the weed in his overalls. Talk about being unclear on the concept! Let’s hope these two people never fall in love and have children. But my favorite is Tekle Zigetta. According to The Buffalo News, Tekle was busted for trying to smuggle $250 billion in counterfeit bills into the country. Two hundred fifty billion! Ten zeroes! Sounds like a criminal mastermind, right? One problem. Tekle’s counterfeit bills were in the one-billion-dollar denomination. That’s right. He had 250 one-billion-dollar bills. (6) You wanna tell me how you’re gonna pass those? “I’d like a dozen assorted, please. You got change for a billion?” I mean, unless you’re making an exact-change purchase of 500,000 Dodge Chargers, I’m just not sure what you can do with a billion-dollar bill. (7) KEYSTONE KOPS And it’s not just the crooks getting dumber. It’s everybody. In Arlington Heights, Ill., police gave confidential informant Robert Bridges $300 to buy seven grams of cocaine and sent him into a drug house. When they finally tired of waiting for him to return, they stormed the house, where they found a very happy Bridges with no money and only 2.8 grams of cocaine left. As red-faced as those cops were, imagine how the Oklahoma City SWAT team felt after they surrounded a suspected drug house and implored occupants to surrender — for seven hours — before realizing there was no one inside. Seven hours with bullhorns and snipers and nothing to show for it. My favorite governmental story, though, involves my grandmother’s home state, where I think the planet may always have been a little warm. According to The Tennessean, “Until three weeks ago, the state’s emergency management agency employed a prison inmate to oversee its purchasing and for a time did not restrict his access to a storage area where guns were kept.” Yes, indeed. And aren’t we all glad Hurricane Biff didn’t reach Chattanooga? “The inmate, Daniel D. Erickson, is serving eight years for trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife. His wife alleged in divorce papers that the 2001 murder plot was aimed at fraudulently collecting a $225,000 life insurance policy after he got into financial trouble. . . . Erickson was disbarred as a lawyer (8) as a result of his crime.” So this guy wasn’t somebody who was caught with marijuana in his overalls or rolled up the rug at the local courthouse and tried to walk out with it. He had tried to arrange a murder for hire, for crying out loud. And yet Tennessee, as part of a state-sponsored work-furlough plan, sent him over to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA, and doesn’t that acronym have an unfortunate ring to it) to do its purchasing. Purchasing! What, were they in the market for hired killers? Then they lobbied for him to be paid above scale for the job, handed him a state cell phone and vehicle, and gave him “access to a safe in the agency’s operations center in south Nashville where guns were stored,” presumably in case his ex-wife was still living in the state. I don’t know, but I’m betting the globe is warming like crazy in the office of the head of TEMA. (9) SIZZLING EVERYWHERE And these represent just a few months’ worth of clippings. It used to take me years to gather up this kind of material. Now it’s pouring out like benzene through a funnel. (10) Forget the polar icecap — it’s the human dunce cap we should be worrying about. I tried to convince myself the scientists would straighten this out. I mean, they’re on the news almost every day that ends in Y with a new study showing “the hottest March 27 in 600 years” or “fewer Icelandic frogs than at any time since the birth of Christ” or similar things that scare the hell out of you even though you remember March 27 as cold and rainy and couldn’t care less about Christ’s frogs. And they always report these stories in front of film showing icebergs calving off into fjords at frightening rates or scorpions spontaneously combusting in the Gobi or something. So help me, it’s almost enough to make you stop spraying your hair. So I know the scientists are concerned, and I thought I could trust them to get a handle on this. Then I read, “A three-year study at the PET Center at Arhus Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, affirmed that the designer drug Ecstasy can cause depression in pigs.” Depression in pigs. That’s when I knew it was too late. If the globe has already warmed enough to cause doctors in Denmark — which is very cold — to test the effect of Ecstasy on pigs, we are well on our way to the surface temperature of Venus. (11) Don’t forget to pack your SPF 50 for next year’s trip to Reykjavik.
(1) Try to stay with me here. If you have no previous experience with syllogisms, just take my word for it: This one is perfect. (2) Yeah, I know a very good argument can be constructed that the greater good is letting the planet just blow up and having the deity construct a new one — kinda like tearing down a slum to build a Wal-Mart — but I can only handle one column premise at a time. (3) That whirring noise you hear is Father Kristovich, who taught me logic in college, spinning in his grave. (4) You think this is an alias? (5) Remember the old Woody Allen movie “Take the Money and Run”? Give me all your cash. I have a gub. (6) Grover Cleveland. That’s whose face was on them. Might as well have been Grover Cleveland Alexander for all the good it was gonna do him. (7) Except maybe finance a war, and I’m pretty sure that’s all done with IOUs, no cash involved. (8) Aw, jeez. Did he have to be a lawyer? Couldn’t the bad guy just once be a dentist or something? (9) They have now decided inmate Erickson should be in a “more restrictive environment” and transferred him to another facility. (10) I have no idea. But something had to come out of the funnel, and benzene was the funniest liquid I could think of. (11) 432 degrees Fahrenheit. This is longer than you usually have to wait for my futile attempt at redeeming social value, isn’t it? Sorry.


William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif. This article previously appeared in The Recorder , an ALM publication in San Francisco.

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