Yesterday was Friday the 13th, or perhaps I should say, another occurrence of Friday the 13th, since they inevitably happen once or twice every year. The most common explanation for the day’s reputation as unlucky involves Philip IV of France and the Order of the Knights Templar. King Philip was an egotistical, bumbling incompetent ignoramus fond of borrowing money he couldn’t pay back – sort of a medieval Donald Trump – and his favorite hobby was warfare – sort of a medieval Vladimir Putin – war being the primary thing for which King Philip borrowed the money. And it was huge money for those days – by the late thirteenth century, he owed various lenders – such as the Lombard merchant’s guild, Florentine bankers, wealthy French Jewish people and the Holy Order of the Knights Templar, about one hundred tons of silver.
Now, as of this Friday the 13th, silver is worth 21 dollars a troy ounce, and there are, (or were) about 30,000 troy ounces in a medieval ton. That’s $630,000 a ton, and while sixty-three million dollars might not sound like a lot money in 2022, bear in mind that silver was about fifty times as scarce back then as it is now, while the population of France was only about a quarter of what it is today, and the French kingdom’s entire annual revenue at the time was about 92 tons of silver. For comparison, the 2021 French government budget was 640 billion Euros. So, just imagine if, in 2021, the government of France owed 695 billion Euros to wealthy French Jewish people, foreign bankers, big business and Catholic religious orders – oh, wait a minute, that’s right, it did. I guess some things in France never really change, do they? Still, if you were a king in those days who owed a hundred tons of silver to various lenders and your entire kingdom’s annual revenue was equivalent to around 92 tons, a strategy of doing something to, shall we say, neutralize your lenders starts to look, well, interesting, to say the least.
First thing, of course, King Philip expelled all the Jewish people from France, regardless of whether or not they were wealthy or he owed them money. That was definitely a no-brainer for a medieval king, practically a knee-jerk reflex, actually, and dare I say, quintessentially French. The next move in the game was considerably more complicated, and given his reputation as gormless in the extreme, it’s doubtful that Philip came up with the idea himself: the crown forced the Lombard merchants to purchase French citizenships from the monarchy for amounts that conveniently erased Philip’s debts to them. The Florentine bankers? Well – they had considerably more money they could lend him, while the Knights Templar, on the other hand, were tapped out, and of no further use. And if you wanted to get rid of someone in 1307, the tried and true solution was simply to accuse them of witchcraft, which is exactly what Philip did.
So it was, on October 13, 1307, that King Philip IV ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar on charges of sorcery and holy heresy so exaggerated and absurd as to verge on the comedic. Not that anyone dared laugh at Philip’s accusations that the Knights Templar were, for example, having regular carnal knowledge of the Devil himself – to do that would be inviting a place beside them lashed to a wooden stake atop a smoking pile of firewood. And that’s why, it is said, to this very day, Friday the 13th is considered unlucky.
And I would wager a pound of silver or two that Captain Merriweather Snerd of the United States Supreme Court Police, who sat nervously in the reception area of my office this morning, would agree that for him, at least, this particular Friday the 13th was about as unlucky as the day could get. He’d called Gretchen earlier in the week, requesting a free initial consultation as a representative of the Supreme Court Marshal, Gail Curley. “But please, please, don’t tell her about it,” he had admonished Gretchen as she searched my calendar for an opening. “I… uh… want it to be a surprise.”
Well, if Marshal Curley ever reads this, I’d bet ten pounds of silver she’s going to be very, very surprised.
“Let me guess why you’re here,” I opened as he stood in my office, awestruck by the furnishings and the picture window overlooking the White House. “It’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, isn’t it?”
“What?” Captain Snerd responded, wide-eyed and baffled, still standing in the middle of the handmade eighteenth-century silk Persian rug, gawking like a sideshow rube, as if he had suddenly and inexplicably been transported by magic unfathomable to the Land of Oz.
“That’s the case,” I explained, “about which you are here. Please, have seat.”
“Oh… oh, yeah… sure,” he whispered, choosing the chair immediately in front of my desk.
“Somebody,” I reminded him as he sat down, “sent a draft opinion in that case to the Web site known as Politico.”
“Right,” he nodded, now comprehending, “Justice Alito wrote an opinion and it’s all about Roe v. Wade, and somebody leaked it.” Suddenly, his eyes lit up with realization. “And that’s the name of case the opinion is about, right?”
“Correct,” I confirmed.
“Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” he repeated, mulling the phrase over in his mind as I watched. “Who’s Dobbs, by the way?”
“Thomas E. Dobbs is the State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health,” I answered. “And Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only licensed abortion facility in the state of Mississippi. In 2018 the Mississippi state legislature passed a law, the Gestational Age Act, that prohibited the practice of abortion more or less entirely throughout the state. One of the doctors there filed suit in federal court challenging the law and requesting an emergency restraining order so that the clinic could continue operations while the case was being decided. The court granted the injunction, and, after completion of the legal process known as discovery, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted the clinic’s subsequent motion for a summary judgment and enjoined the state of Mississippi from enforcing the law. The basis for the summary judgment was that, in the courts opinion, the state of Mississippi had failed to prove that a human fetus would, in general, be viable at only fifteen weeks gestation. Therefore, citing Roe v. Wade, the 1974 Supreme Court decision that rendered abortion legal in the United States before the start of the third trimester of gestation, or twenty-four weeks, as established law, the court concluded that the Mississippi law is unconstitutional.”
“Um… yeah, if you say so,” Captain Snerd meekly responded.
“So,” I prodded, “what do you suppose has to happen so the state of Mississippi can get what it wanted when it passed the Gestational Age Act?”
“I donno,” he shrugged.
“Take a guess,” I encouraged.
“Get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?” he ventured, uncertainly.
“Exactly!” I confirmed. “And what do you suppose that leaked draft opinion that Samuel ‘Torquemada’ Alito wrote says the Supreme Court of the United States of America is going to do?”
Snerd squirmed in his seat like a child struggling to remember the multiplication tables. “Um… overturn Roe v. Wade?”
“And that,” I said, “is what all the commotion is about. Now let me guess again. Being a member of US Supreme Court Police isn’t your first position in law enforcement, is it?”
“Oh, no,” Captain Snerd readily confessed, “I’ve been in law enforcement since I enlisted in the Army M.P.’s back during the Iraq war. After my hitch was up, I got a job with the US Secret Service Uniformed Division, guarding other countries’ embassies here in DC, that kind of stuff. Then, after that, I signed up with the Supreme Court Police. And that’s my problem, you see? All my career, I’ve been doing security work – that side of law enforcement, you know? Keep the jihadis in the stockade, keep their buddies out; keep the protesters yelling about human rights fifty feet away from whatever embassy of the country that’s in the news for that kind of stuff this week; keep the screaming women in the pink knit [expletive] hats away from the screaming women waving plastic fetuses on sticks – that kind of thing. But Mr. Collins, I’m totally bull-[expletive] here! Marshal Curley called me in to her office on Monday morning and told me I’m in charge of investigating who leaked the Alito opinion! But I don’t know [expletive] about investigations! Hell, I’ve never investigated anything in my entire law enforcement career!”
“Where,” I inquired, “did you learn about the existence of my consultation practice?”
“Oh,” he came up abruptly. “That. Yeah, um, I go to this shooting range in Prince William County and there’s this person I know from there, he’s a staffer for Ron Paul, um… I mean, he used to be, and when I told him about my… uh… predicament… he told me about you and gave me your office number.”
“So,” I concluded, “you like guns?”
“Guess so,” he shrugged, now looking at me quizzically.
“How do you feel about the Second Amendment?” I asked.
“I… ah… I like it fine, Mr. Collins,” he murmured while looking down at the floor.
“The right to bear arms,” I observed, “is what is called an ‘enumerated’ right in the US Constitution. What do you think about the Constitutional right to privacy?”
“Well,” he allowed with a slight stammer, “I guess I’m sure glad we have it.”
“We don’t,” I told him.
“Huh?” Captain Snerd stared at me so blankly, I have seen more intellectual discernment in the eyes of the deer in my back yard.
“There is no right to privacy enumerated in the United States Constitution,” I informed him.
His eyes went wide as saucers. His jaw dropped. “There isn’t?”
“No,” I confirmed, “There is not.”
“But… but what about that Fifth Amendment stuff about, you know, Miranda warnings and all that [expletive] we cops have to deal with every time arrest somebody?” Captain Snerd implored. “Or the Fourth Amendment stuff, with the perps always hiring a slick lawyer to get off because of something we did when we searched his car after he – I donno, drove it into a restricted area where he had no business going in the first place, for instance? Aren’t those privacy or something?”
“The right to avoid self-incrimination,” I clarified, “and the right to a person’s security in their personal possessions, are not privacy rights.”
“So,” he beseeched, “you’re telling me the Constitution says I don’t have any privacy?”
“No,” I elaborated, “the Constitution doesn’t say you do. So, what are your thoughts on that?”
“I… I… think,” he stuttered, “that somebody must have [expletive] up pretty good for that to have happened.”
“They did,” I agreed. “Because two hundred and thirty-five years ago, there was, for example, no way the police could see through the walls of your house with an infrared camera, and the Founding Fathers couldn’t even imagine, in their wildest fantasies, that any such device could possibly exist. Nor could the Framers of the Constitution have foreseen that someday, everyone would be connected to a vast world wide web of a network and use it every day to do things that would constantly reveal intimate facts about them without their consent.”
“Okay,” Captain Snerd conceded, “times change. So the laws should change with them, right?”
“Not if you are Justice ‘Strip Search Sammy’ Alito,” I shot back. “Not if you are Justice Brett ‘Big Boofer’ Kavanaugh. Not if you are Justice Clarence ‘Uncle Tom’ Thomas. Not if you are Justice Amy Cony ‘Cottontail’ Barret. And not if you are Chief Justice John ‘Toad Killer’ Roberts. They all believe that the Constitution that was good enough for 1787 is good enough for 2022. It doesn’t matter to them if the arms we bear evolved from smooth bore muskets into AR-15 assault rifles, or if the messages people once wrote on parchment with quill pens, the police can now intercept by monitoring their Bluetooth keyboard signals. They figure if the American people want privacy rights in their Constitution, then can damn well amend the sucker to put some in. And there are five of them, and as things stand right now, that’s all it will take to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
“Okay,” Captain Snerd pleaded, “I get it. Let’s um… stipulate… that the majority of the Supreme Court are a bunch of [expletive]-holes who live in a world that’s from, like you say, two-hundred-thirty-five years ago. It’s still my job to investigate who leaked Justice Alito’s draft opinion to Politico, and like I said, I don’t know squat about how to conduct an investigation. You’re supposed to be the smartest person in Washington DC! God damn it, tell me what the [expletive] I should do, for Christ’s sake!”
“Just go through the motions,” I advised, “that’s all.”
“You mean, I should do – what? Just start dragging people into a room with a video camera and interrogate them?” Captain Snerd demanded. “Ask them, ‘Did you leak the,’ uh, whatchacallit – ‘Dobbs v. Jackson draft opinion?’ and, ‘Do you know anybody who might have leaked the Dobbs v. Jackson opinion?’ and, ‘Where were you on the night the Dobbs v. Jackson opinion was leaked?’ and other stupid [expletive] like that, as if the person who did it, or somebody who knows who did it, would just come out and tell me, just like that?”
“Precisely,” I affirmed. “Just like that.”
“But even I,” he protested, “who never did a [expletive] investigation in my entire [expletive] life, know that isn’t going to work! There’s no [expletive] way I’m going to find the culprit conducting an investigation with lame, ineffective methods like those!”
“Correct,” I dryly informed him.
“Then why should I investigate the leak like that?” he barked in frustration.
“Because,” I revealed, “nobody wants you to find out who did it.”
It took a moment for that to sink in, during which Captain Snerd kept staring at me, apparently expecting to hear that my remark was some kind of facetious jest. When it became apparent that he realized I was, in fact, being serious, he shook his head resignedly and took a deep breath. “All right, Mr. Collins, tell me why they don’t.”
“The so-called pro-choice crowd don’t want the culprit found,” I explained, “because they would like to pretend that the so-called pro-life crowd did it to get the issue out in the open and under control before it can affect vote totals for Republican candidates in the mid-term elections this fall, especially in key swing districts that will determine control of the House and Senate. And the so-called pro-life crowd don’t want the culprit found because they are convinced it was a so-called pro-choice sympathizer who did it. They are afraid that a big federal criminal show trial, with its attendant media circus, will make a Profiles in Courage martyr of the culprit and galvanize suburban women to vote for Democrats who support Roe v. Wade in the mid-term elections instead of being distracted by inflation and voting Republican. The bottom line, Captain, is that the whole affair is a hot potato which Marshal Curley decided to get off her hands by dropping it in your lap. And the inconvenient truth that made her do it is, she doesn’t know any more about conducting an investigation than you do.”
Captain Snerd pondered my exposition for a moment, then spoke. “What makes you so sure?”
“I am sure,” I revealed, “for two reasons. First of all, if any side in this multi-faceted imbroglio – Democrat or Republican, so-called pro-choice or so-called pro-life, liberal or conservative – really, sincerely wanted the person responsible for leaking the Alito opinion caught, the case most certainly never would have been assigned to Gail Curley. No, the FBI would already be swarming all over the Supreme Court building conducting a real investigation with genuine, qualified and experienced investigators, backed up by the formidable forensic, scientific and technological capabilities for which the FBI is so justifiably famous. Instead, here we have – you. QED right there, sir, but in fact there’s more. You see, I happen to know who leaked the draft opinion, and I can assure you, they will never be found.”
Stunned once more, Captain Snerd sat speechless for a protracted interval. When he finally regained his composure, he looked up at the ceiling, then at me, then quietly cleared his throat. “How can you know that this person will never be found?”
“Judicial privilege,” I said.
The words hung in the air as Captain Snerd cocked his head to the side in frank puzzlement, like a dog confused by a strange sound.
“Can you say ‘judicial privilege?’” I inquired.
Captain Snerd gazed at me silently.
“Say, ‘judicial privilege.’” I coaxed.
“Judicial privilege,” he responded.
“I knew you could,” I told him.
Another long moment passed in silence as Captain Snerd averted his gaze once more to the floor.
“Just… go through the motions?” he whimpered.
“Just… go through the motions,” I repeated.
“Just… go through the motions,” he softly echoed, over and over, as he rose from his chair and walked out of the office like a man in a trance.
NOTE TO READERS: On Thursday, May 12, 2022, President Biden officially recognized the deaths of one million Americans from covid. Back on February 21, I mentioned that a million people in the United States had already died from covid. This happens to be true – however, as the World Health Organization noted earlier in May, governments have been under-reporting and revising covid death figures, in some cases by multiples of more that three, mostly in order to make things appear less appalling than they actually are. The US being no exception, shortly after the initial reports of one million American covid deaths, the official numbers were finagled slightly downward to a figure somewhat larger than nine hundred thousand. Since then, the public has been subjected to pundits and officials wringing their hands over “nearly a million deaths” from covid. Take it from a Beltway Insider, folks, the real figure was well north of a million back when I first mentioned it. What happened on May 12 was, things just got so bad here in the US that the government realized it couldn’t whitewash the numbers any further and still maintain a semblance of credibility.
It also appears, as I noted in February, that the Biden administration is beginning to commence to start to get ready to initiate declaring covid “endemic,” which would finally – technically – put a cap on the figures for covid pandemic deaths. It looks like, again for purposes of optics and appearances, the Biden administration will probably do this before the United States surpasses the 1918 influenza pandemic death toll as a percentage of total population, a figure which, as I mentioned in February, will be 2.1 million.
Nevertheless, as I previously stated, I have complete confidence that the American public’s ignorance and stupidity will prevail, as it always has, and that number will be surpassed much sooner than any US official responsible for public health statistics will be willing to admit. My certainty of this is bolstered by another interesting number – the R0 value for the latest Omicron “stealth” variant, which is 12. Original Flavor Covid 19 had an R0 of 3. The impact is not linear, by the way – the latest variant will not spread four times as fast as the the original strain in populations of unvaccinated fools who won’t wear masks or wash their hands. No, the relationship is exponential, and the new variant will spread in such populations at a rate of Euler’s Number to the fourth power, which is to say, fifty-five times as fast.
The Chinese realize this, which is why they locked down Shanghai and other major cities so stringently, while here in America, an idiot federal judge was repealing mask mandates and idiot Americans were taking them off and dancing around on airliners breathing covid viruses all over each other. With behavior like that under such circumstances, it is obviously only a matter of time before Americans’ twin penchants for Panglossian optimism and unrestrained wishful thinking continue their synergistic work and cause another huge surge in hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus. One can only wonder if Joe Biden will deliver another sad speech and order the flags flown at half-mast when the US government must finally admit that Grim Reaper’s toll has reached two million. It’s a pretty safe bet, though, that he will have the opportunity to do so long before his term of office expires.