My old friend. This was my week for old friends, and one of them (who wishes to remain anonymous) got caught in the “grandpa scam” and ended up wiring his “nephew” several thousand dollars to get him out of jail. This telephone scam is apparently both rampant and effective. The callers are smooth, and they prey on both our gullibility and our better natures. Send your money to no one but me. The U. S. Senate. That august body again played games with oil company tax breaks, voting against repeal of the billions of dollars in tax subsidies the proponents of Small Government happily give to the owners of Big Oil. Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe voted for repeal, while Democrats Mark Begich, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson and Jim Webb crossed the other way. According to President Obama, each one-cent increase in the price of gas yields $220 million in increased quarterly profits for the oil companies. His proposal to invest the subsidies in renewable energy research seems a no brainer.
Il Papa. “What does a pope do?” Fidel Castro asked Pope Benedict in one of recent history’s more bizarre meetings. According to an NPR story, one thing he may do is preside over one of the world’s most secretive and corrupt financial empires. This is hardly the first such allegation – 30 years ago a scandal tied the Vatican to international money laundering and the Mafia – and with the ongoing revelations about child abuse, John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state looks a lot more insightful than Rick Santorum’s throw-up on the rug.