February 23, 2005 | 5:58 p.m. ET

Patriotism or marketing?

Like many of your fellow countrymen or women, you’re probably pretty patriotic: You sing along with the national anthem at ball games, fly a flag on the 4th of July, and get a little misty when you hear Ray Charles singing “America.”

But questions remain: Can you truly be patriotic enough? Or is it possible to take the whole flag-waving thing a bit too far?

Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to the military’s Fort Bragg, seems poised to answer both those questions. Unsatisfied with Fayetteville’s current image, the local visitor’s bureau has decided to re-brand their town as the most patriotic in the U.S.

They’ve got a ton of ideas— fireworks every Saturday night; tax breaks for flag-flyers, actors playing founding fathers roaming streets painted to look like old glory, and requiring all restaurants to serve apple pie and hot dogs.

Hmmm, yes, because nothing shouts freedom from the rooftops like forcing restaurants to reprint their menus. New York has the Statue of Liberty, Philly’s got the Liberty bell... and Fayetteville? Why in Fayetteville, you’ll be force fed pork products by an underemployed actor in a musty Lincoln costume. I love the smell of patriotism in the morning; it smells like frankfurters... and that Lincoln guy’s fake beard.

Other ideas include allowing police to hand out “fake” traffic tickets to people driving foreign cars. Just a tip: if your car is a Peugeot, take the detour.

John Meroski of the visitors bureau is excited by the plan, saying, “The things we’ve done in three years are remarkable, but you can only imagine what could happen in five years, 10 years.”

Yes, just imagine: Mandatory flag tattoos; compulsory fireworks attendance; Barbara Streisand forced to impersonate George Washington. Those fake tickets? They’re real now! Don’t like hot dogs or apple pie? There’s a dog kennel in Gitmo waiting with your name on it!
Sure, you’ll try to skip town, but with all the streets painted like flags, good luck finding the turn lanes.

I kid, of course. But all this is a reminder that while patriotism may be “the last refuge of a scoundrel,” it’s often the first stop in a marketing campaign.

Thoughts? E-mail RReagan@MSNBC.com

February 23, 2005 | 5:47 p.m. ET

On the segment on Cuba

I was in Cuba last year making a documentary film about the return of Hall of Fame Legend, Monte Irvin. While I was there, the Cuban people were not waiting for any saviors in the form of G.W. Bush or any other American. They would like to have the embargo ended and return to a normal relationship with the US. This would be the best thing to spread freedom on the island of Cuba. —Jeffrey Nagel, Los Angeles, Calif.

Monica, I hope we do communicate with Cuba through all available means... but doesn't Castro have another corrupt despot just waiting to take his place? —Charles, Southwest Va.

Our taxes are being sent to subversives in Cuba?  How about we try funding some of our own desparately needed infrastructure and education instead.   Do you really want your money used to continue what is a 40 year losing battle? —Donna Boutwell, Myrtle Beach, SC

5:47 p.m. ET

On Terry Schiavo

Crowley is getting too much time. You're not even reporting you own poll that favors the husband's right to disconnect the feeding tube. —Sandy Rapp, Wainscott, NY

As a husband who had to make the same decision for my wife (cerebral aneurism) 24 years ago, and a father whose son (hit by a car) expired while in a (1+ year) Persistent Vegetative State in 2001, I SCREAM at the TV set each time this unnerving story resurfaces.  Mainly I scream at the religious wrong who inject their “pro life” views into others’ intensely personal business.  This is the most excruciating decision a person can make, and it should be NO ONE’S business, especially the government.  Now that Mr. Schiavo has fought the misguided parents for so long, they use the fact that he now actually HAS a life against him, and sadly Terri.  She should have been unplugged LONG ago.  Were I Mr. Schiavo at this sad point, I’d just move on and let the nuts have their way. —Larry Williams, Bee Branch, AR

5:33 p.m. ET

On the discussion with bloggers from MYDD and Powerline on President Bush's trip

It is not helpful, instructive or entertaining  to have guests who  are capable of nothing but nastiness, sneering contempt,  and ad hominum attacks. I refer to the snarky little man from mydd.com. Lose him permanently. People are tired of  his brand of negativity and name calling. —Anonymous

Monica's tone with Chris Bowers with Chris Bowers was totally unwarranted. She was hostile and tried to lead Chris with biased, unfair and spectulative questions masked as debate. —John

Bravo, Ron for admitting that certain administrations in this country have been quite cozy with terrorists or those that violate human rights regularly such as Sadam Hussein and Saudi Arabia, where women, to this day do not exist.  Laura Bush is so quick to talk about the women of afghanistan and their new found freedom but there is no mention of the horrific treatment of saudi women.  Makes you wonder... —Patti, Buffalo, NY

It is funny to think whe we have dealings with Saddam and Irag in the late 80's, it is history and we shouldn't bring it up. When Europe deals with Iran we can't wait to judge them on what they are doing. I think as long as Bush keeps the United States isolated with Iraq, nothing will change. —Michael Morris, Kansas City Missouri

5:20 p.m. ET

Blog links today

February 23, 2005 | 4:12 p.m. ET

Coming up on the 5 p.m. ET hour (Tony Maciulis, Senior Producer)

The climate apparently gets colder the further east you go on the European continent.  A beret is sufficient on the streets of Paris, but by the time you hit Moscow you'll need a fur Ushanka hat.  Likewise, the mercury is dropping on President Bush's welcome as he moves from Belgium to Germany and now on to Russia.

Tomorrow's meeting with Putin is expected to be tense.  On the table tomorrow will likely be a discussion of lapses in Russia's democracy building and a lack of control of certain factions.  You may recall the bloody hostage situation at a school in Beslan back in September that left 300 dead.  Putin is expected to deflect such criticism, and perhaps point to Russian concerns about the U.S. electoral system and allegations of prisoner abuse.  Should be interesting to watch.  We'll discuss it today.

We'll also take a look at controversial initiative to plant the seeds of democracy in Cuba.  Apparently the U.S. government has been sending money to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups trying to undermine Castro's regime.  Some say democracy is worth the price, and others worry about the creation of a subversive underground in Cuba.

And later, what if we could eradicate a virus the same way we do e-mail spam? Microsoft plans to try.  A cure for AIDS at you fingertip?  A scientist from Microsoft will explain, in language even I can understand.

February 23, 2005 | 12:59 p.m. ET

Love contracts (Monica Crowley)

MSNBC TV
Let me set the scene for you: It’s Monday morning.  You saunter in to work and spy the attractive person in the next cubicle. Maybe they’re new to the company, or maybe you’ve seen them in the copier room for a while.  But they’re checking you out, and you’re checking them out.  And then one day, around the water cooler, a date is made.

Over a candlelit dinner, it’s just going to be you, the attractive co-worker, and oh, yeah: your boss.

Some companies are now asking employees to sign “love contracts,” which help to protect them from a sexual harassment lawsuit if two employees are dating and the relationship hits the skids.  The love contracts say that a relationship is consensual, state the ground rules for office behavior (meaning no making out on your desk), and restate the firm’s sexual harassment policies. 

According to a lawyer who has drawn up hundreds of the contracts, “It protects the employees and it protects the company” from liability in case one or both parties claim the relationship was never consensual.

Some companies move employees into separate departments to avoid bad scenes, and others prohibit employees in the same department from dating.  When Ross Perot ran EDS, his policy said interoffice dating was a big no-no. 

The problem, of course, is in enforcing a policy like that.  The heart wants what the heart wants.  Love is love, and lust is lust.  But companies are saying, “If we can’t stop the office romance, at least we can stop a potential lawsuit against us.” 

So the next time you fall in love at work, just remember: it may not be all wine and roses and annual reports:  it may also involve a prenuptial agreement— with your boss.

E-mail MCrowley@MSNBC.com.

February 23, 2005 | 12:49 p.m. ET

It's 10 a.m. PST, do you know what your child is eating? (Ron Reagan)

It’s lunchtime on the east coast—but here in Seattle, breakfast time is just ending. We wanted to take a closer look at just what's on your child's breakfast table . Why?

Nutritionists have been sounding the warning about sugar intake  and childhood obesity. But yesterday, General Mills announced it intends to market to children— especially cereal.That company’s products include Cheerios and Lucky Charms....and recently began making all of them from whole grains.  In fact, a company spokesman said cereal, the top product in its marketing to kids, is the number one source of whole grains in kids’ diets.

Now the big cereal makers are joining forces to form a lobbying group to  fight for its right to advertise to children. It’s called “The Alliance for American Advertising.” The CEO of Kraft says “to be sure that you maintain self regulation, the company believes it is important to take steps to show that you can self regulate.”

At Connected, we debated on where the responsibility of childhood nutrition lies— the companies, marketers, or the parents? It sure isn’t the kids themselves. Here’s what some of you said:

One of the biggest culprits is soft drink, full of high-fructose corn syrup. Add to this the super-sizing insanity, you have a perfect recipe for childhood obesity and all the future ramifications American healthcare will face in a generation. Sad, pathetic, and avoidable...I blame many parents for allowing it to go on, to a large extent, but it is also dumped by corporations on the kids' culture, both in school and on the street, so it is hard for them to avoid. —Mark Sherry, San Diego, Calif.

These companies don't need to fight for the right to market their products to children. Have you watched cartoons laetely? Every other commercial is about some sugary, high fat garbage for kids to put in their mouths. —Donna, Florida

Where will Dr. Linn draw the line? What's next? Birthday Celery Sticks? I'm sick of people telling me how to raise my kids. —Susan Jacobson, Minneapolis

12:38 p.m. ET

On President Bush's foreign trip
The debate between Jamie Rubin and Richard Perle

Bush’s European Tour is a VICTORY LAP! Bush isn’t mending fences. He is saying “I told you so!” He is acting “humble” because he won! —Raymond

Instead of trying to spread democracy around the world specially in Europe, The president need to start repairing our own democracy, freedom and liberty which has been seriously damage by his right wing predators. —Jose Alemar, Williamsburg, Colo.

Instead of working overtime to keep the workings of government secret— Cheney Energy Policy Team is just one example— why not stand up for open trasnaprent open government AT HOME first. —Robert R.

Very odd... second day in a row I'm actually agreeing with Crowley and disagreeing with you Ron. Can you really say conditions in Afghanistan are only slightly better? Why hasn't the news reported on no liguidation/terror raids on villagers by Taliban goon squads no longer are feared... also remember the 10,000's of refugees fleeing Afghanistan or in the hugest concentration of squalid refugee camps on the Pakistan border are a thing of the past. Much misery and terror has been lifted from the shoulders of Afghans. —Anonymous

Why can't we start with Israel and have them get rid of their nuclear warheads that US provided them. Then we can get Iran to stop their progress on nuke. —Al, Fairfax, VA

I just heard Mr. Perle describe the situation in Iraq as an "occupation."  Isn't this the same description that Zell Miller took such outrageous issue with when he "spoke" at the Republican Convention? Further, Mr. Perle allowed that mistakes were made... interesting how the President was unable to be this candid!
Barry Jones, Mckinleyville, Calif.

After seeing our unjustified attack on Iraq, why shouldn't Iran have any weapons they can get to protect thier population from a like attack.  It looks like they are  doing everything in its power to behave as a responsible government should. —Donna, Myrtle Beach, SC

Folks keep bringing up that we invaded the wrong country and should have invaded Iran instead of Iraq.  Yet these same folks would holler if we invaded Iran and I believe would be complaining about not having an exit strategy out of Iran. —
Cliff Kostuk, Cortland, NY

Bush's trip to Europe is more then a fence mending. It is Bush going back to America's oldest allies with his tail between his legs. Asking for forgiveness because he made a serious mistake. Just because Bush made a decision to go to war, and then barriers his head in the sand, does not make his actions all the mare right then sticking your finger in a electrical outlet, getting chocked and doing it over and over again. —Eugene

February 23, 2005 | 10:56 a.m. ET

President Bush's diplomatic trip, plus what's coming up on the show (Tony Maciulis, Senior Producer)

In 1947, Argentina's first lady Eva Peron set out on a historic mission to Europe to promote Argentine interests. It was known as the Rainbow Tour, and it involved a lot of waving and smiling for cameras as thousands jeered and protested just out of reach of the lens.

The trip the President is currently on reminds me of that moment, in a way.  Freedom fries are French fries again and warm hand shakes and big smiles have greeted him along the way.  But the newspapers and city streets tell a more complicated story. 

In Berlin demonstrators held up signs that read "Bush is Terrorist Number One."  A German business paper reported that Europeans believe a real plan for Iraq "is as far away as it was a year ago."  The French thawed a bit, though.  Le Figaro reported that his "change in tone is spectacular."

We'll assess the progress of this diplomatic trip today with two top shelf guests: Richard Perle, a pivotal person in the development of the President's defense strategy and former Clinton State Department official James Rubin.  What do we need from the Europeans at this point?  What role will they play in the future of Iraq?

And later, an update on the American man accused of plotting to assassinate President Bush .  He had been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for the last 20 months and returned to the U.S. to face charges.  Our own terrorism expert Charles Pena will fill in some details in this disturbing story.

Finally, the food manufacturer General Mills, maker of all things yummy and fattening like Cheerios and Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, says it will gear its marketing toward children.  Some nutritionists believe that such targeted advertising contributes to the epidemic of childhood obesity.  I remember going grocery shopping with my mom when I was little.  I got to sit in the front of the cart with my legs dangling down and my greasy paws clawing at everything sweet and fluorescent that came into view.  A simple, "No, you can't have that," from my mom, and the battle was usually over.  So who is to blame for childhood obesity ?  General Mills, or General Mom?  There are certainly two sides to the story.  We'll discuss.

Click here for Tony's Tabs everyday.

February 22, 2005 | 5:46 p.m. ET

Red vs. blue state is getting out of hand (Ron Reagan)

This whole “red state” and “blue state” thing has officially gotten out of hand. Here in my home state of Washington, generally regarded as reliably “blue,” a movement is afoot that would have the eastern or redder part of the state secede to form its own autonomous bastion of conservatism.

Like many states labeled “red” or “blue,” Washington, if you kind of swirled all the counties together in a blender, would actually be more purple.

West of the cascade range, particularly around Seattle where most of the people live, we’re pretty blue. East of the mountains, out in the dry sparsely populated farm country, things turn red in a hurry. Think of the cascades as our Mason-Dixon line.

Folks in the east are tired of a bunch of latte-swillin’, laptop-twiddlin’, i-Pod wearin’ lefties representing them in Congress and in the eyes of the world.

On the other hand, if you held a gun to their heads (and it’d have to be one of their own guns)—they’d have to admit that all the best restaurants are in the blue zone.

Western liberals, for their part, sometimes suspect their red cousins of being… mmm.. let’s call it “uninformed.” But we sure enjoy the apples they grow.

States you see, are a lot like people. You may be against the war in Iraq, but you want our troops to have everything they need to stay safe. You might be confused by gay folks, but you’re not sure the constitution needs to be amended specifically to disenfranchise them.

“Red” and “blue” just don’t cut it. Life and politics include the whole color wheel. There will always be deal-breakers, of course— colors some people just can’t see— but the last thing this country needs is a further descent into petty factionalism based on a few hot-button issues.

Should eastern Washington get its way and secede from the west?

No. Unless cutting off your nose to spite your face sounds like a good idea.

E-mail RReagan@MSNBC.com

February 22, 2005 | 5:46 p.m. ET

On Larry Summer's gender statements

Why would Summers apologize for a remark submitted as a hypothesis?  Debate the issue instead of the statement; you can't discount a theory before studies can be conducted.  Let's not chalk up another victory for the P.C. Police just yet... —Ed, Daytona Beach, Fla.

I don't understand why we can't accept the possibility that there are inherent differences in the genders.  There are certainly many examples of innate physical differences, some of which lead to differences in ability in specific pursuits.  Why is is heresy to suggest that the same may be true in other areas? —Brett, Indianapolis, IN

5:44 p.m. ET

On Terry Schiavo

Let's get the terms of reference correct: 1.  Terri Schaivo is NOT in a coma.  She is alert and awake, she just cannot communicate. 2.  Terri Schaivo is NOT on life support.  She cannot swallow therefore she's being fed through tubes. Your guest who said, "let nature take it's course" is absolutely out of touch with reality...any human being will starve if deprived of food! —Mickey Addison, Stafford VA

I certainly hope that if I am ever in an unconscious condition in which I cannot be exected to revive in a short time, six months or more, that no artificial means will be used to keep my brain-dead body alive.  I never want to be a burden on anyone, family, taxpayers, or otherwise. —A. Benton Edmons, Cypress, CA, USA

5:22 p.m. ET

Blog reads today

5:16 p.m. ET

Is language in ‘A Company of Soldiers’ too raw?

I am a Soldier stationed overseas.  My wife and I are watching (right now) your Connected Coast to Coast program via Armed Forces Network.  
Within a few weeks, I'll begin my year long deployment into the combat zones.  So, my question is this... should I be shot/wounded, and there's a camera crew nearby, should I ensure that I save everyone the time and trouble and censor myself, "Oh drat, I appear to have been wounded, bleep it...."? This is an amazing lack of common-sense being displayed.  Doesn't "context" mean anything? There's a far cry from viewing a breast during a family time, and family themed extravaganza and watching a documentary of combat.  During a film of combat, I FULLY expect to see violence and to hear expletives (and perhaps some that Topeka, KS hasn't heard of yet.)  I wouldn't expect the same, perhaps, during "Wheel of Fortune".  It's all about context. Nice to know what we're fighting for... —Walter, US Army and darn proud of it

The program " A Company of Solders", should simply NOT be broadcast!  Let it stay with the BBC, not PBS. We don't need to scare mom's & dad's of our solders by showing this across the nation! —Dave Metzger, Lansing, Michigan

I find it ironic that the PBS stations showing the edited version are primarily located in "red states", the same states that were so supportive of this war. They were all for the war but please don't show them exactly what goes on there. —Michael Silipigni, Brigantine, NJ

Censorship is a great obscenity. Censorship of words starts with parents teaching their children that there are "bad" words. The only bad word is the word, bad. The so-called expletives are the salt and pepper of the language. They do not detract, they add to our discourse. And the source of this censorship for many is religion. Words are simply just words, and to censor them is disgusting. —James King, St. Charles, IL

Censoring the words of our soldiers in battle makes no sense.  They could die fighting, and we're not even suppossed to hear thier own words?  This is almost as dumb as not allowing us to see the bodies of our soldiers coming home in boxes, hiding reality dosen't change it. —Toni B., Myrtle Beach, SC

About the "bad words" used by soldiers.  Maybe viewers NEED to be shocked and hear the real sounds of battle.  I wonder whether people realize that "war is hell"--er, sorry, "heck"--when they hear only a sanitized version of "spreading freedom."  They hear those same words from rap "artists" and kids on the playground today, anyway! —Shalanna Collins, Richardson, Tex.

Unlike the Janet Jackson superbowl incident which there was no warning before hand, as long as parents know ahead of time I see no reason to alter the content of a telvision show. —Ken Caslis, Santa Ana California

You can't censor reality in a documentary.  An edited documentary is no longer a documentary, it's a watered-down version of real life.  Hence the name, documentaries document life. —Jerome S., Davis, CA

February 22, 2005 | 4:33 p.m. ET

The gender and swear word debate (Tony Maciulis, Senior Producer)

I'm not a math person. In fact, I remember getting warm waves of embarrassment and humiliation every time I was called on in math class.  Miss Goebel, my freshman year Algebra teacher, gave me a B out of sheer pity and the need to keep me in the Drama Club. I was a great Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, but anything beyond addition and subtraction threw me.

Larry Summers, president of Harvard University where I'm sure many people are good at math, delivered a theory in January to a crowd of scientists about why more women aren't working in that field. It boiled down to something like, "because they just aren't as good as boys."  Believe it or not, there are studies to support his idea.

Besides making some female academics pretty darn angry, he has also sparked a really interesting debate. Sometimes academic theories are controversial, even offensive. Remember Freud? Does this mean they should not be shared? We will talk to members of the Harvard community today and ask them that very question.

And, on another note also relating to free speech, the PBS show "Frontline" has produced a new documentary about a group of soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Army's 8th Cavalry.  They have the dangerous job of guarding senior officers in south Baghdad.  The film contains some rough language, as occasionally soldiers swear. I swear like a trooper and the only thing I'm guarding is my place in line in the cafeteria, so I can imagine the stress of being in Iraq might produce an F-bomb or two. Some stations don't want to air the film without bleeping the cuss words, so Frontline made a different and sanitized version. We'll talk to general managers from a couple of networks airing the film, as well as the film's director.

In other news, Terry Schiavo's husband has finally won his battle to have her feeding tube removed, thus beginning the process of ending her life.  We'll go in-depth on the issue with Derek Humphry, the author of Final Exit.  He brought assisted suicide to the political forefront after publishing this book about his wife's own death, and he went on to start the Hemlock Society.

February 22, 2005 | 12:55 p.m. ET

On President Bush's EU trip

The French, as well as others, have despised the American leaders and democratic thinking for years.  They feel that taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists are not important efforts.  These nations have such deep-rooted ties to many Islamic extremist groups, and there is no sign that they will break those ties.  At what point did these nations forget that without the U.S. they would not be flying their nations flag, but rather that of the Axis who conquered them in WWII.  —Joshua B.

Wake up. The French can't help it that they REALLY are smarter,more refined, and mature. Americans need to get on board with EUROPE, not fight against them. Don't forget, these countries are Hundreds of years older than us, and hence hundreds of years WISER. Who do we think we are?! —Christopher S. Whitten, Klamath Falls Ore.

12:40 p.m. ET

Weird wacky weather

The weather lately has been ridiculous.  From what I can remember, we have had hurricanes, tornadoes, sinkholes, massive flooding, tidal surges, and that is just Florida.  Let's not forget about the wicked weather elsewhere in the U.S and the world.  I feel like I am living in the first five minutes of "The Day After Tomorrow".  Las Vegas might soon be a pacific beach resort if it keeps raining like it has in CA. —Joshua, New Port Richey

I think Ron would agree with me on this. California, please give us back our weather, you are probably sick and tired of it.  I am not looking forward to Summer and we have already experienced a brush fire in February. —Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

Monica, Sean (the weatherman) must have been busting a gut! You give blondes a bad name. His name is pronounced like 'Shawn', not 'Seen'. —Kind regards, Hugh
(Editor's note: Sean McLaughlin's name is pronounced 'Seen.' Monica pronounced it just as Sean does himself.)

February 22, 2005 | 12:29 p.m. ET

Let's not demoralize our soldiers before they go into battle (Monica Crowley)

MSNBC TV
Remember the 6th grade?  Sandwiched between childhood and adolescence, it’s the last frontier of innocence, before the real vagaries of the teenage years kick in.  It’s the world of science class, afterschool specials, and dodgeball.  It’s not the world of the anti-war movement.  At least, it’s not supposed to be.

But one 6th grade class in Brooklyn, New York, was asked by their teacher, Alex Kunhardt, to write letters to Private First Class Rob Jacobs, a GI stationed 10 miles from the North Korean border who has been told he may be headed to Iraq in the near future.  He got a bag of letters from what he thought were his new 6th grade pen pals.  Anticipating notes full of good cheer, Private Jacobs was stunned to find them full of political vitriol instead: against the war, against the military, against President Bush.

One girl wrote that she believes Jacobs is being “forced to kill people” and challenged him to name one Iraqi terrorist, saying, “I know I can’t.”

Another girl wrote, “I strongly feel this war is pointless,” while a boy accused soldiers of “destroying holy places like mosques.”

The teacher refused to say whether he read these notes before he mailed them off, but now he says he’s going to contact Private Jacobs to explain.  Now THIS I gotta hear!

Even sixth graders have First Amendment rights to free speech.  They have a right to think and say whatever they’d like about the war and the president— TO the president or Secretary of Defense or anyone else in the government.  NOT to a GI, who is headed to a combat zone.  Every man or woman who voluntarily joins the United States armed forces is a hero in my book, and they ALL deserve our support, even if you disagree with the policy that has sent them into those combat zones. 

This teacher was so into his social studies lesson that he neglected basic common sense and decency.  I think this teacher needs a “time out”— or maybe a brief stint in boot camp.

E-mail MCrowley@MSNBC.com.

Your instant e-mail reactions:

I remember being more than smart enough to write letters like this. I am glad to see that SOME teachers and schools are teaching kids the TRUTH. Despite what you see on TV, there are MANY soldiers who don't belive in this "War On Teror" either. —Christopher S. Whitten, Klamath Falls, Ore.

Oh, please.... let us show school children that there is NO such thing as FREE SPEECH!! Monica needs a TIME OUT!   —Dee

Someone needs to tell the sixth grade social studies teacher and his class that those letters sent to the soldiers were, at the very least, in really bad taste.  Now the teacher wants to contact the soldier and explain?  Explain?  He should be apologizing for his poor judgment.  It's not hard to imagine what kind of social studies lesson he was teaching his students. —Susan, Horse Cave, KY

February 22, 2005 | 12:16 p.m. ET

On Scalia

I have a problem with scalia being elected because he brings such a right-wing conservative bias. We need a fair-minded judge who will not bring idealolgy to the table but fairness. —Thomas McGlynn, Baldwin, Long Island

The thought of Scalia as chief justice makes my blood run cold.  His lack of ethics and decisions to try to restrict affirmitive action and womens autonomy over thier bodies outweighs any intellectual powers he might possess.  His actions have thrown doubt on the inpartiality of the Supreme Court. —Toni Boutwell, Myrtle Beach, SC

Liberals are always opposed to the conservative viewpoint. To them, it doesn’t matter whether or not Antonin Scalia is qualified… All that matters is that they get a liberal in the seat to promote their liberal point of views. —John Holder, Thatcher, Arizona

February 22, 2005 | 11:58 a.m. ET

Coming up on the noon ET hour (Tony Maciulis, Senior Producer)

The White House has all but said that Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist will resign by June and that officials are preparing a list of potential successors for the President to peruse.  No doubt Antonin Scalia will be high on the list.  Is Scalia up for the job?  Depends on who you ask.

Liberals are afraid that Scalia is too religious and has his sights on overturning Roe v. Wade.  His take on this issue has wavered, from "Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided," a decision in 1992, to "leave abortion to the states," just a few months later that year.  Where does he really stand on the issues, and what would a court run by Antonin Scalia be like?  We will talk to two experts from different sides of the fence.

We'll also take a look at the wacky weather patterns we have seen lately.  What lies ahead after the snow thaws?  Florida was badly hit by hurricanes this past season and it could be worse in years to come.  We'll talk to MSNBC's own Sean McLaughlin and an Accuweather expert to find out what is causing the increase in storms.

And later we will build up to President Bush's press conference in Brussels, expected at around 12:55 p.m. ET.  Yesterday he shared French fries, or freedom fries if you prefer, with French President Jacques Chirac.  His goal is to mend fences with "old Europe," and we will assess his progress so far.

Connected@MSNBC.com

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