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Never put your faith in the intelligence of people

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Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2004 10:00 pm

You go through life trying to believe people are basically intelligent, even if the casinos keep getting bigger. You maintain this belief in the face of late-night infomercials, presidential elections and sales of diet pills.

But sometimes you are tested, and you sympathize with Moses. Or even 24-hour credit card-hotline operators. Part of this belief is that while people are basically intelligent, some of them are bad people, and will do bad, intelligent things, like devise sandwiches that consist of what are possibly eggs and greasy meat between two little pancakes.

Then you see something like a story about someone in England stealing a horse's drug sample, when the horse is under suspicion for steroids (horses being extremely competitive that way).

As you read further in the story from The Guardian, you read the police's exact description of the theft: Someone heisted a sample of horse urine. Willingly.

To repeat: Someone was so worried about the horse being busted for steroids -- and the shame that would result from a trial, with the horse standing behind the little table all day and the judge holding it in contempt for dropping apples on his nice courtroom floor -- that he or she intercepted a package of horse pee and made off with it, maybe shouting, "I've got the pee! Quick, to the getaway car!" And then they sped off and cackled at their fiendishness, until they realized that they'd just stolen something that you probably don't want anywhere near car seats, clothes or human skin. Hopefully they realized this and found a place to get rid of it (other than, "I dunno, it's a rental, put it in the glove compartment.")

The horse's owner, Cian O'Connor (a Gaelic name that oddly translates to "Barry Bonds"), was the show-jumping champion at the Athens Summer Olympics, and thus the only gold-medal winner from Ireland, but this is questionable when you figure the only real skill involved is not falling off. It's also got to be a bad sign when your only medalist is willing to be paid in carrots. In addition to an initial failed drug test, judges were suspicious when the horse leapt over not only a couple hedges but the entire Kenyan track team.

Unfortunately, the testing system found a leak (guffaw) in this diabolically clever plan, as a blood sample still existed that showed the poor horse was doped up enough to help the Budweiser Clydesdales compete in snowmobile races.

If this is not enough to shake your faith in villains not really being any brighter than your average phone book, a story from the Sacramento Bee might be enough for you to, in shame, investigate real estate involving secluded caves on desert islands (with full back yards).

According to the story, a pair of men pulled up at a tire store in Roseville and made the casual, everyday offer of some marijuana for tires. Fire one for Firestones, I guess. Being unfamiliar with exchange rates for narcotics vis a vis automotive accessories, I am unsure if this was a fair trade.

The tire store clerk, unable to authorize this transaction without clearance from a store manager, refused, leading to one of the men in the car, showing a good grasp of bartering principles, attacking the employee with a metal baseball bat.

From there, the tire store employee fought back like a crazed monkey, by shattering a window on the car with a rock, and skittering into the back to find a manager, or perhaps a Deadhead who could explain conversion rates. While this happened, the would-be dealmakers showed go-get-'em spirit, and just took the two tires, presumably not leaving the weed behind, because they still had to get someone to install the tires, after all.

If their plan had ended there, you could've admired the creativity, though perhaps not the negotiating strategy ("If he's not down with this idea, dude, we'll turn him into red sand. Got any Doritos?"). Alas, their plan kind of fell down a dark well when they realized one of the windows was broken, and went back to the tire store to see if they could find whoever did that. Hint: You tried to hit them with a baseball bat. Some would say they had cause.

Police eventually arrested one of the lifetime MENSA members after chasing him through a shopping mall, and I think he was spotted at a Taco Bell stand first.

So you read all this, and you think: Maybe criminals aren't intelligent. Maybe I have been wrong all this time in assuming that crooks have more guile than that guy on the Cookie Crisp box.

But then you might think, all this thinking hurts. I'm hungry. When do they stop serving McGriddles?

Ben van der Meer is the news editor of the Tracy Press. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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