"What's that you're holding behind your back?"

Whether it's the last cupcake everyone was supposed to share, a risqué love letter, or a loaded Glock, anytime you conceal something it immediately provokes suspicion.

So it is with Linc Chafee's refusal (as of press time) to reveal the specifics of a state-commissioned report on Medicaid and food stamp fraud, prepared by consultant and former Moderate Party gubernatorial candidate Ken Block.

A good rule of thumb for this type of report is that the less information that's publicly available, the more likely it is rich folks who could be publicly embarrassed — say, doctors and hospital executives — are up to their lying necks in it.

Just look at the federal government's laughable "investigation" of Wall Street malfeasance. Perhaps Governor Chafee is looking for a way to declare Medicaid cheats "too big to fail" before the information is disclosed, either the right way — full disclosure by our Linc — or through strategic leaks to the media.

Block is pushing for the release of his report. But unfortunately, he signed a confidentiality agreement that zips his lips. (Call us anyway, Kenny, we'll do the right thing.)

The governor is saying he can't release the findings because it may hamper ongoing and future investigations of fraud. To which P&J respond, "Give us an effing break, please." That's the oldest line in the book for any police department or government official who is dodging the sunlight.

While most of the Medicaid fraud seems destined to hit the high and mighty, the food stamp fiasco will not entail perp walks for CEOs.

Food stamp cards double as ATM cards for those qualifying for cash assistance. Insert one into a liquor store ATM, and you're home free with an 18-pack or a few 40s of malt liquor.

Then there are the convenience stores, where "We accept EBT cards" stickers have been sprouting like wild flowers in recent months. Trust us, there are more cartons of Marlboros marching out the doors of 7-Elevens then gallons of milk for little Baby Dumpling. And if you think a minimum-wage employee working a 12-hour shift is going to question the legality of your purchase, on anything from fireworks to condoms, you're living on a different planet.

Of course, the state clearly lacks the staff to track down all these violations. But P&J hope that authorities can at least stop the practice of tapping casino ATMs; at least make an effort to conceal your scams, food stampers


PRAYER SHOTS

Phillipe and Jorge mourn the loss of the Big East Conference as we know it; the institution is falling victim to the gods of greed and the gridiron.

What gives us a chuckle, however, is the name affixed to the seven institutions of higher learning (cough) that will play basketball under the Big East banner — keeping the brand alive. This group, the so-called "Catholic 7," include our own Providence College, Georgetown, and St. John's, early stalwarts of the Big East.

But before we imbue the new Big East with a religious aura, maybe we should look at some of the faithful who have played for these schools in the past. Other than PC's St. Ernie of DeGregorio and acolyte poster boy Billy "The Kid" Donovan — toss in Chris Mullin of St. John's, whose face looked like the map of Ireland (albeit with a few zits) — we don't remember many players likely to frequent Mass on Sunday.

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