ThinkFast: March 7, 2006

Wal-Mart is caught planting articles with right-wing bloggers. Many of the bloggers posted Wal-Mart’s information word for word, without revealing their source.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and her husband “took an all-expenses paid trip to Santa Barbara, Calif., in January for the official business purpose of ‘spiritual self-reflection.'” The $1,100 trip was paid for by the Fetzer Institute, whose stated mission is “to foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness.”

2,154: The number of flights on chartered corporate jets taken by federal officials over the last five years, at a cost of $3.7 million.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ written answers to questions about the Bush administration’s eavesdropping program may require him to testify a second time before the Senate Judiciary Committee because Chairman Arlen Specter contends there is a suggestion that “there are other classified intelligence programs that are currently under way.”

A powerful, well-connected food industry lobby is attempting to eradicate over 200 state food-safety laws. Among the lobbyists are Abigail Blunt, wife of Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO); Brad Card, brother of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card; and former staffers of Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). Speak out here.

The Coalition of Mayors and County Executives for Immigration Reform, a group of 100 local officials from 30 states, have found bipartisan unity on one key thing: President Bush has failed on immigration reform.

Medicare’s process for investigating complaints about bad care is “broken.” The Senate Finance Committee found that in 2004, the contractors investigated only 3,100 complaints for 43 million Medicare patients.

Lieutenant General Nick Houghton, Britain’s most senior officer in Iraq, has established a timetable for the phased withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. “The process will involve a four-stage disengagement that is scheduled to begin this spring, or at the latest by the end of the summer.”

Author Natan Sharansky — whose book on democracy President Bush publicly recommended — becomes a critic: “Despite what I believe to be the president’s genuine commitment to promote sweeping change, the policy shift hasn’t matched the rhetoric.”

And finally: “In what is surely a first for the federal judiciary, a Texas bankruptcy judge has quoted from the Adam Sandler film canon in a recent opinion.” Dismissing a motion, the judge cited 1995’s “Billy Madison“: “At no point in your incoherent, rambling response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.”