March 10, 2005 | 7:24 p.m. ET

Court couture (Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley)

When you're on trial, charged with a serious crime, wardrobe considerations become very important. You want your clothes to send the right message to judge and jury alike. Your attire should say "I'm upstanding, humble, a regular person" and, most importantly, "I'm innocent."

Some defendants grasp this better than others.

How a defendent dresses can be as important as the legal defense.  Take a look at Michael Jackson, arriving at court in the early days of his child molestation trial:

Michael Mariant  /  AP
Pop singer Michael Jackson, left, accompanied by an unidentified security person, waves to fans as he arrives at the Santa Barbara County courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., Monday, Jan. 31, 2005.


He was in a white suit, trying to project innocence. Or perhaps just having a little fashion fun. But he may have pushed the fashion envelope a bit too far today... arriving late in pajamas and slippers, looking like a fugitive from the ICU.

Michael Jackson Arrives Late To Trial
Kimberly White  /  poll via Getty Images
Michael Jackson and his father Joseph Jackson arrive late for his child molestation trial at Santa Barbara County Superior Court on March 10, 2005 in Santa Maria, California.


Not a great look if you are trying to impress a jury.  Michael should have taken notes from Kobe Bryant.

Accused of rape, Kobe seemed to get it. His suits were sober and, often as not, accented with a trustworthy shade of blue. Good move.

Kobe Bryant Hearings Resume In Eagle
Pool via Getty Images
LA Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant and attorney Pamela Mackey leave chambers to enter the courtroom at the Eagle County Justice Center May 27, 2004 in Eagle, Colorado.


Winona Ryder, during her shoplifting trial, adopted a similarly demure look. No cleavage, not even a hint of thigh. Message: I'm a good girl who made a mistake.

RYDER
Pool via AP
An image taken from a pool video shows actress Winona Ryder during a progress report hearing, Friday, June 18, 2004, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Courtney Love, on the other hand, went with a different strategy. Her appearance suggested she'd stayed up all night smoking crack and then stopped off for a bit of dumpster diving on the way to court.

Courtney Love Pretrial Hearing
Frazer Harrison  /  Getty Images file
 Singer Courtney Love stands at the Los Angeles Criminal Courts January 11, 2005 in Los Angeles, California.

And then there was Martha. 

Stewart arrived at her trial carrying an $10,000 Hermes Birkin bag, turning herself into a symbol of elitist privilege.  Did she think she was above the law?  Just check out that bag!

MARTHA STEWART ARRIVES WITH DAUGHTER ALEXIS AT COURT THURSDAY
Shannon Stapleton  /  Reuters
Martha Stewart arrives with her daughter Alexis at the Federal Courthouse in New York for her securities fraud trial, January 29, 2004.

The lesson here? If you find yourself on trial for your life, choose your court clothing carefully. You wouldn't want your next fashion statement to be an orange jumpsuit.

E-mail us Connected@MSNBC.com for fashion notes of your own.

March 10, 2005 | 5:35 p.m. ET

Michael Jackson trial:  More of your emails on today's development

After watching Michael Jackson wave at spectators, I find it incredible that he was experiencing such grueling back pain that he could turn around to wave and that he would take time to go to a hospital, risking losing $3M by not arriving at court at the appointed time!  I, too, suffer with back pain and when it happens in the morning, realizing that I have to report to work on time, I take medication and “make the best of it”!  I have to wonder if Michael Jackson has ever had to “make the best of” anything in his lifetime.  It saddens me that our legal system gives such special treatment to celebrities.  — Anne, Reston, Virginia

Let's keep race out of this.  I'm a 70 year old white woman and enjoyed Michael Jackson as a young, very talented boy and also very cute.  Do I think he's a child molester, no but I do believe he has his own demons that make him act the way he does.  I believe he has a good heart but gets himself in trouble with his "way out" demonstrations.  I also believe the parents of the young boy had no problems accepting all that Michael had to give and they are the ones that should be held accountable for what is taking place today.  No matter what Michael does, he will always be considered a "kook".  I'm on Michael's side on this issue.  — Joan Califano, Bradenton, FL

March 10, 2005 | 12:57 p.m. ET

Video: Arrest warrant for Michael Jackson

Flash news : Michael Jackson has shown up to the courtroom in pajama bottoms. He is currently in a holding area.

A judge issued an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson on Thursday after he failed to show up for his child molestation trial on time and his attorney announced the singer was being treated for a serious back problem. According to the MSNBC for a countdown clock— between the judge threatening to put Jackson under arrest and Jackson showing up in the courtroom— Jackson has missed the deadline.

'Connected' had planned a 12 noon ET hour , but Flash News was priority. Ron and Monica anchored the full hour.

Your e-mails on Jackson, coverage:

I thought we had cell phones, or mobiles, as they are called. You mean to tell me that no one knows enough to phone his lawyer or the court, and no one there actually knows how to phone him?? This is so ridiculous! I hope they get the warrant and throw him in jail - where he knows he belongs anyhow. Hospitals do not keep a patient such as himself so this is all annoying and time consuming and unnecessary to the court, and an insult to all. —Nina, New Haven, Conn.

That is the place for Jackson-too much time devoted to vacuous drival in "news?' in US. —Anonymous

Michael Jackson should be on suicide watch. He is clearly unbalanced. —Bob,
New York, N.Y.

Arrest him! If this being late stuff was happening to a normal everyday person in court, the judge would throw the book at him/her... quit giving Micheal Jackson (or ANY other celebrity, for THAT matter) "special" treatment. Stick to your gunsm judge! —Richard, Texas

Bonds are promises, MJ is not thinking he is responsible for bond. —Chris Sharp

This is just ridiculous. The judge is acting toally unreasonble in issuing a warrant. I am a retired attorney and what most reaonble judges do in these cases is just say we stand adjourned say to 10:00. —Jim Karavite, Royal Oak, Mich.

I have a bad back myself, and so far, flipping thrugh the news channels your the only one who commented on the way Jackson turned to give a peace sign to some people. I know if I try to turn like that it stops me in my tracks. Great observation. I noticed that also. Great show. —Karl,  N.Y.

I've had back problems and believe me even with pain killers and muscle relaxers you don't turn around like He did to wave at people. Even breathing hurts! —Jane Allbee, Metamora, Ill.

E-mail your thoughts to Connected@MSNBC.com

March 9, 2005 | 6:07 p.m. ET

The Boss of a college class (Monica Crowley)

MSNBC TV
When I say, “The Boss,” of whom do you think?

Bruce Springsteen is “The Boss,” at least of rock and roll, for his hard-driving melodies and pointed lyrics.

Now, I've enjoyed Springsteen's tunes over the years.  It doesn't get better than “Thunder Road” or “Rosalita” or my personal favorite, “Jersey Girl.” But Springsteen's music belongs on the radio or on DVD.  It does not belong in a college classroom.

A professor at the State University of New York, John Massaro, has turned his love of The Boss' music into— get this— a political science class. “I've always seen him as political,” Massaro says. “We are really studying power.”

Really?  Bruce Springsteen has gotten political throughout his career, that's true.  But he hasn't exactly had a major impact:  “Born in the USA,” Springsteen's biggest album released in 1984, was an anti-Reagan rant, and yet Reagan went on to win re-election in a landslide.  He has sung fundraising concerts for Democratic candidates over the years, most of who have lost. Most recent example?  John Kerry. 

Last year, Springsteen rounded up a group of musicians for his “Vote for Change” Tour, designed to help defeat President Bush for re-election.  Since we are still calling George W. Bush “Mr. President,” it's fair to say that Springsteen's efforts here failed.

But that's not stopping Professor Massaro from teaching an entire semester on Springsteen's political impact.  And he's not the only one.  In September, Penn State will host something called “Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium.” 

Here's a suggestion: How about making these rock and roll courses more bipartisan?  How about studying the impact of Republican musicians?  Oh, right.  I can only think of one: Ted Nugent.

Whatever happened to biology, American literature, and economics?  Colleges should be places of higher, not lower learning. A course on Springsteen??  How about a course on frivolous college courses?

Massaro tipped his hand as to his REAL motivation for teaching the course when he said that his biggest dream is for Springsteen to drop in on his class.  Sounds to me like Massaro is using his “class” to meet his idol.  And that's too bad for his students and their parents, who should expect more from an expensive college education.

E-mail MCrowley@MSNBC.com.

March 9, 2005 | 5:50 p.m. ET

Blog links, if you missed them:

March 9, 2005 | 5:41 p.m. ET

The 'Connected' challenge: What would you do to save CBS?

Many of you have had a lot to say about Dan Rather and CBS in your e-mails, some more critical than others. Now it's time to back some of that talk up with ideas. We want to hear from you: How would you fix CBS? After Dan Rather leaves tonight— what should the network do to earn back credibility?

E-mail Connected@MSNBC.com.

March 9, 2005 | 5:41 p.m. ET

Antiquated computer system for the FBI (Monica Crowley)

MSNBC TV

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is famous for catching crooks like Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and John Dillinger. They were all nabbed—long before terror watch lists and databases! 

Those are the new tools of the FBI, it turns out, aren't working.

Terror experts agree: In a post-9/11 world, the FBI needs a updated computer system that allows intelligence agencies to share files and information.

Apparently easier said than done. Yesterday, almost three-and-a-half years after September 11th,  the FBI announced that it's $ 170 million effort to overhaul the system has been a bust.
“I am tremendously disappointed that we did not come through with the 'virtual case files,'” said Director Robert Mueller.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is on the committee overseeing the agency—he calls the whole  process a “train wreck in slow motion.”

How much more time does the FBI says it needs to get it right? another three and a half years. And that's 1,260 days too long.

Your e-mails:

Why not ask this question: Are there individuals at the top of the system who really do not want the "dots connected"? Connected dots often point to the truth.  The truth is often in conflict with the current line. Example:  A field agent picks up something about a particular individuals— this information made available to another field office might add a second dot connecting the information to a third dot that would lead to a highly placed and/or influential person.  The current paper trial is probably slower and allows for items to get lost before the dots are connected. —Ralph

Perhaps they should look at the VA Hospital system. They deal with huge volumes of computerized (only) information, and with security (patient information). And they do it all across their system. —John, New Castle, Del.

Why should we think as taxpayers, that a new computer system is going to help the FBI?  It's been 3 1/2 years since the 911 disaster and yet despite all of the inquiries, investigations, comments and promises, not one finger has been pointed to hold any individual in the government responsible for the fiasco. From the president to the Congress to the lowest ranking individual in the homeland security, not one person has been held accountable for the disaster on September 11.  President Bush said that "he was not aware of any security problem", National Security Adviser Rice told the Congressional Hearing Committee "at the time national security was not my major concern".  In my opinion, if you're the National Security Adviser security should be your only concern. —Bob Ruggley, Chicago, Ill.

March 9, 2005 | 1:08 p.m. ET

What do animals have to do with the same-sex marriage debate? (Ron Reagan)

Yesterday, my home state of Washington took up the issue of same sex marriage .

The issue did attract a group of protestors to our state capitol.

Now you know what this debate means: Let the gay-bashing begin. Named the fave right wing sport for several years running, gay-bashing always gets a big boost from the so-called “gay marriage” debate.

Much of it is entirely predictable, even kind of amusing. Homophobes don't seem to get what the rest of us are hip to— that the people most worked up about other folk's sexuality tend to be insecure about their own. Their lips may say “sanctity of marriage” but we hear “closet case.”

And, inevitably, someone like Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania will launch things into the realm of the truly weird. Remember when he dragged man on dog sex into the discussion? Man on dog? The love that dare not bark its name? How did we get from matrimony— to man's best, um,... Saturday night ever? I began to wonder just what videos this guy might have in his private collection, quickly concluded I didn't really want to know, and chalked it up to a peculiar fascination of the senator's.

But then, Justice Antonin Scalia dropped the b-bomb, saying that same sex marriage would lead to bestiality. Apparently, the far right spends a disturbing amount of time thinking about sex with animals.

Two obvious thought arise: First, the two issues are entirely unrelated. On the one hand you have two humans wanting to get hitched; on the other, a drunken farmer and outraged sheep. Second, these people need help and we're not talking a trip to the petting zoo.

A word of advice to the gay-unfriendly fringe: ix-nay on the animal stuff. Whatever point you're trying to make, this can't be helping. And besides, it's just plain creepy.

And a recommendation to the rest of us: the next time Santorum, Scalia or any of their ilk drop by for dinner, you might want to consider locking up the pets... just to be on the safe side.

E-mail RReagan@MSNBC.com

March 9, 2005 | 12:51 p.m. ET

Are terrorists getting guns— and we're letting them (Ron Reagan)

Let me get this straight: Felons, illegal aliens, and the mentally ill can't purchase guns, but terror suspects can? FBI Director Robert Mueller said, "Inclusion on a terror watch list is not a stand-alone factor that would prohibit a person from receiving or possessing a firearm."

Scary, isn't it? According to the general accounting office, people on the U.S. terror watch list tried to buy guns 58 times last year— and 47 of those sales were approved. Not only are they getting guns, but the purchase records are being erased.

Currently, the FBI purges those documents 24-hours after the sale.

But Sen. Frank Lautenberg wants tougher restrictions and has introduced legislation to block destruction of those records.

And while the gun industry is weary of new restrictions, maybe it's time for Congress to connect the dots. Not all foes are foreign, after all.

Your e-mails:

Liberals have complained about how people are getting on these watch lists, saying that the government is going to far— but now they definitely don't want them to have guns?  Even if they're on the list unfairly? —Mike, NYC

What about due process? I am a liberal, and I don't believe people should be put on lists that limit their rights without any chance to defend themselves. —Brad Sacks, San Diego

This is clearly a case in which unfettered rights and due process are in conflict with commmon sense. Tell the terrorists they can't buy a gun. If they feel their rights have been violated, let them go to court. They may still end up with legally purchased weapons, but there's nothing unconstitutional about making the process complicated. —Anthony Gilpin, Lakeland, Fla.

To deny a citizen their Second Amendment rights without a criminal conviction is unconstitutional. Are we going to deny those on the "watch list" their First Amendment rights as well? How about their Fifth Amendment rights? Flying on a plane is different... you have no constitutional right to fly. Like it or not, you can't just ignore people's rights whenever you feel like it. —Michael, Huntington, W.V.

Does it make any sense, that a person whose name is on this terror watch list, with the actual intention of committing terror, would want the paper trail led to them, that one leaves by buying a gun legally?

If Senator Lautenberg gets his way, then the terrorists will merely arm themselves the way other criminals already do...through illegal, and largely undetectable, means.  And, as usual, the only ones who would be affected are the law-abiding gun owners who never commit any crimes or terror. —Brian H.

When every other right we had pre-9/11 -- privacy, free speech, trial by jury -- has been compromised in the name of the "War on Terror," it's ridiculous to expect that the "right" to a weapon that kills people should be preserved when it threatens the health and security of Americans.  Maybe if the Gun Lobby had stood with other Bill of Rights beneficiaries they'd have some more support today.  Besides, is waiting a few days before getting your newest gun really such a terrible imposition if it's for National Security? —Sabrina, Lynnwood, Wa.

March 9, 2005 | 12:18 p.m. ET

Are bloggers journalists?

Bloggers— they broke memo-gate and they go beyond the headlines in Iraq . But spreading inside corporate info? A court's deciding whether this is more than a free speech issue.
Corporate secrets— obtained illegally— were put out on the Internet. Is this a First Amendment or just plain unfair?  The bloggers say they're just good journalists and that shutting them down would be censorship. The question being fought in the courts is should bloggers be held to the same standards as journalists? Click here to read more about this case.

Jeralyn Merrit, a lawyer and a guest in this segment has a blog. Click here to check it out.

Your e-mails:

This issue transends liberal/conservative standings. A thief is a thief no matter if they use a gun or a computer. —Toni, S.C.

I think that what it boils down to is Intellectual Property.  The difference between publishing the Tripp Tapes, Michael Jackson transcripts, and Apple information is that we are dealing not with news but Intellectual Property and the copyright laws. —Scott W. Taylor

Are bloggers journalists? Hell, journalists aren't even journalists. —John, Minn.

I had to sign a non competition agreement when I worked for a major computer manufacturer. I was not allowed to give out specific information about the company and the products.  Also I could not even work for a competitor of that company 2 years after leaving. I think that these people should be sued for leaking secret information on the blogger. Especially if they signed an agreement upon getting hired. If they could not keep their mouth shut then they should have found another job. —Lisa B.

Monica is right. The information could not have been legally obtained and distributed.  If it was an employee, it was illegally distributed.  If it was a non-employee, it was illegally obtained.  I am not a lawyer however. —Craig Cheatum, Houston, Tex.

U.S. law does not recognize all information as public property. The First Amendment protects the press, but patent rights are also protected the Constitution. If bloggers publish information they know to be legally protected by patent or copyright, it is theft, period. —Anthony Gilpin, Lakeland, Fla.

March 8, 2005 | 5:45 p.m. ET

Full hour on 'Connected': Rather steps down Wednesday night (Tony Maciulis, Senior Producer)

"We've lived by the crystal ball. We're eating so much broken glass, we're in critical condition."

Dan Rather said that on election night 2000. He was referring to network analysts who got it wrong on Florida and called the election too soon for Gore. They ended up with egg on their faces. 

He also said, "This will show you how tight it is— it's spandex tight."  The first quote seems more profound and applicable to the present situation, so let's go with that.

Rather steps down tomorrow, the second of the big network anchors of my lifetime to leave. 
I wonder if there isn't some deeper symbolism in his crystal ball comment, a bigger statement about mainstream media. His departure not only has sparked long debates on whether or not network news is biased, but also whether it is even relevant in this day of bloggers and talk show hosts. In the last election, six times more people got their news from the Internet than did in 2000. The numbers don't lie— evening newscasts on the big three networks are on a downward slide and have been for awhile.

But that doesn't mean we can't value these programs for what they were, for what those big voices and coiffed hairdos have meant to Americans since television was new.

And Dan Rather has earned his place in that shared memory, that nostalgic vision of what this country has experienced together.

There's a great song in Sondheim's play Assassins called "Something Just Broke." The scene is Dallas, 1963, and President Kennedy has just been shot. One deep, authoritative voice is heard emanating from a nearby television. Characters on different points of the stage are clearly Americans in different towns, different states. Some in mansions and some in Brooklyn apartments. All of them together heard one voice, "The President is dead."

This is the power of network newscasts, and Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings are at the helm of a ship sailing into a magnificent sunset. Tomorrow is unsure, but yesterday was golden. They all deserve our respect.

This afternoon we are devoting our entire hour to Dan Rather's career. The ups and the downs.

And, as Dan once said to a guest joining his broadcast, ""Maybe you can bring some perspective on this. We're plum out."

So e-mail us: Connected@MSNBC.com

Your e-mails so far:

March 8, 2005 | 5:38 p.m. ET

Your e-mails about Dan Rather

As a Vietnam vet, I have high respect for Mr. Rather. He went to places and exposed things that others were afraid to do.he never hid from political issues, war zones, facts, or any issue that may hurt his reputation. He stood on his beliefs  like a man should, there are many people in power today that we cannot say that about. He will be missed, because as i can see there is no one with balls to replace him.  —M&B Fields

There is a difference between asking challenging and tough questions of the President and being rude and disrespectful to the subject of your interview, whether it is the President or anyone else, and that is the line that Mr. Rather did not seem to draw correctly.  —Caroll Hoke

Monica Crowley has a lot gall critizing Dan Rather because he doesn't apologize for everything he has even said or done.  Her hero, (GWB) is the person who needs to apologize.  He was hiding out in the National Guard during Viet Nam and his actions in Iraq has caused the death of over 1500 young Americans and wounded thousands.  If anyone needs to apologize it is Monica's hero GWB. —Shirley

I am saddened by the retirement of Dan Rather.  The media today has NO investigative reporters that have the guts and determination of Rather. If it did, we would NOT be in Iraq and counting body bags!   The NeoCons running this country has caused the media to fear asking the tough questions.  Democracy is in deep trouble with George Bush in office... especially our free speech. So long Dan, you will be missed. —Patricia Anderson, San Antonio Tex.

My mother just turned 80. She has been a Republican all her life. She watches Dan Rather religously.He was a good man. Democrat's desperately need a platform. As a Democrat i have nothing to watch. —Leonard Turnbull, Aurora, Colo.

Why can't someone just tell it like is?  Rather tried to turn an election on forged documents and should be going into prison not retirement. —Kevin M., Yokosuka, Japan

Dan Rather didn't vet his documents properly.  Does that mean that the story about President Bush is not true? —Joan, Englewood, Colo.

We will remember Dan Rather for years to come as a fine dedicated journalist that told the truth. He is a hero, not the  demon the radical right has portrayed. —Frank Cousins, Oak Harbor, Ohio

Your smug owner of "ratherbiased.com" needs to appreciate that Dan Rather has helped thousands of people, including people on the right he looks up to, get on the air. Without Dan Rather, whether you like him or not, we may have seen the age of journalism continue to dilute itself and not ask the tough questions. Throw the bias out the window, young man. You're just as biased as the man whom you proudly want to believe stepped down in part to your ridiculous website and the right wing bias behind it. —Walt, West Newton, Mass.

You bet that Dan Rather is Liberal. Journalists should try to be unbiased but it's very hard not to let your personal deep down core belief system come to the surface. It's ok to be liberal or conservative. Just be honest about who you are and admit to being who you are when asked. —Paul

Hey, Dan Rather is leaving tomorrow, let's let him bow out gracefully and look back fondly on the great things that he has done for journalism. —Brendan Keating, Boulder, Colo.

It seems to me that monica has real problem recognizing the truth that Bush did avoid his national guard duties. There are still records of his that are missing and to try and blame the liberal bias and Dan Rather for this is plainly absurd. —Jim Francis, Delphi, In.

March 8, 2005 | 12:41 p.m. ET

More winds of change (Monica Crowley)

MSNBC TV
President Bush spoke at the National Defense College today where he touched on the democratic changes beginning to stir in the Mideast.

He is resolving to stay the course in the Mideast no matter what the headlines. Calling authoritarian rule in the Middle east the “last gasp of a discredited past,” the president highlighted what he calls a trend towards democracy.

From the moment the president first laid out his vision for a new Mideast— it's been a view not popular with the liberal press. But signs are indicating that the president may be right .

I'm starting to have a strong sense of deja vu. Ronald Reagan had a vision of the Cold War that was not shared by the liberal media elites. Yet despite criticism over a record deficit and debate over whether  the so-called “Star Wars defense” would even work, President Reagan stayed the course. The wall came down—the evil empire collapsed. I'm starting to think we're seeing the same thing all over again.

Your e-mails

Somehow the right wing seems to be mixing up winds of change with floods of hot air.  Afghanistan is, except for Kabul, still run by warlords, Iraq has elected pro-Iranian leadership and North Korea still goes rolling around.   The Bush regime continues to reward failures and attempt to paint a rosy picture out of what is an impending disaster.— Toni Boutwell, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Your terminology "unintended consequences" is blatantly incorrect. Go to your archives and study the President's and his administration's speeches prior to the re-entry into Iraq and you will find that democracy and stabilization of the Middle East were discussed several times. —Don Mowell

I've always pulled for President Bush and what I believe to be an honest agenda. It's still going to be a long haul, and what we need now more than ever is for Democrats to swallow a little pride and for Republicans to avoid grandstanding at all costs... Unfortunately, because of this thing called "pride," I don't have much hope either side can meet that challenge. —Steve, Buffalo, N.Y.

The Monica line that the so-called elections occurring in the Middle East are proving Bush Policies were right. I suggest to Monica the H. L. Mencken quote: "The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake." Furthermore, as Thomas Carlyle notes: "Democracy will prevail when men believe the vote of Judas as good as that of Jesus Christ." —W

Jonathan Alter is pathetic,  he is trying to paint a picture that attempts to remove any kind of credit from the Bush doctrine and policies, C'mon get real!!!  If Kerry were president, the troops would have gone home before the elections if he could help it! Toot S.

Bush misled America. Subverting democracy here to spread it there is retarded. —Pat, Pasadena, Calif.

March 7, 2005 | 5:52 p.m. ET

Pictures are worth a thousand liberal elite media words (Monica Crowley)

MSNBC TV
Dan Rather signs off for the last time as the anchor of The CBS Evening News on Wednesday night.  We will be discussing Rather's departure here on “Connected” over the next few days.  But there is one aspect to this story that caught my eye — literally.

The photograph of Rather in the March 7th issue of The New Yorker magazine is terrible. I'm no fan of Dan Rather.  But running a picture like they did was inexcusable.  He looks like a corpse: pale skin, drawn mouth, vacant eyes.  Are you telling me that the New Yorker could not come up with a more flattering — or even, frankly, more normal — photograph of Dan Rather to run with the accompanying story?  I am sure that rolls of film were shot of Rather for this.  And they chose to run the most hideous one of the lot?

I am not defending Dan Rather here.  I am going after the mainstream media, which, from its elitist perch, believes that it can signal to you what to think and how to think. 

The liberals in the press do this to Republicans all the time. USA Today thought it was a great idea to crop the shot with the word “BRAT” hanging over Bush's head (President Bush was in Bratislava).  This isn't even subliminal.  This is hit-you-over-the-head messaging being done by a liberal media organization.

Whether it's Rather or Bush, they are victims of a bunch of elitists who use the power of the image to advance their political agenda. And we, as news consumers, don't have much recourse.  Even juries are instructed to disregard certain things.

But we don't have the chance to do that. Nobody tells us to disregard the Rather or Bush photos, to just drop them from our minds as if we had never seen them.  We just have to be smart enough to identify the bias — one way or the other — and disregard it ourselves.  And then, we should call it to everyone's attention (as we are doing here) so those in the elite media won't continue to try to pull the wool over our eyes. 

We're on to you, mainstream media! You are fooling no one.  Now cut it out.

E-mail MCrowley@MSNBC.com

March 7, 2005 | 5:52 p.m. ET

Your e-mails on filibuster-ing

Attempting to bypass the filifbuster is just another sign of the arrogance of the right wing. They have no respect for the constitution if it gets in thier way, no regard for treaties that interfere with thier narrow-minded ideas of what this country should be, and no respect for the Americans who disagree with them. —Mark Kjergaard, S.C.

If the Republicans are so concerned about judicial vacancies, why did they re-nominate the few judges that didnt make it through the process last year?  It is hypocritical, in my view. —David Brockman, Beatrice, Neb.

If the 4 percent of the nominee's are so horrendous, why are the Democrats afraid that those nominee's will pass a floor vote? These nominees can't be confirmed on the floor without some Democratic votes. The good Senator from Vermont's argument is absurd on its face. That a minority of the Senate, and apparently a minority within their own party, can enforce their views on the entire Senate is absurd. —Tom Keifer, West Chester PA

March 7, 2005 | 5:20 p.m. ET

Inter-office romance leads to firing for a CEO (Tony Maciulis, Senior Producer)

I'll admit that when the Boeing story came down today I didn't think much of it.  Not interested in the slightest.  The fact that the company is on its second CEO in 15 months sounds like a juicy business story, but not immediately right for us.

It's when you look beneath the surface that you see something worth talking about, a trend that has blossomed in corporate America with little fanfare but huge repercussions.

Have you heard of a love contract?  The days of casually dating a coworker have ended.  Beyond exposing yourself to sexual harassment accusations, you may well be putting your career and reputation on the line.  Many companies now ask canoodling colleagues to sign a document saying that the relationship is consensual and outlining specific plans for what happens after the breakup, should there be trouble in paradise.  It makes you wonder if it's worth it to swim in the company pool, so to speak.  I bet that Harry Stonecipher thinks it isn't.

Your e-mails so far

The best advise about on the job relationships is the oldest, " Don't get your honey where you get your money." —Tony S.

So the CEO of Boeing gets a little chicken on the side and bang— he gets fired. See, under Bush getting laid is a criminal offense. Where is Clinton when you need him? This high value stuff sucks. —Gary, Fla.

It is admirable that Boeing moved so swiftly and publicly to address what they perceived to be an impropriety. I used to work for a large consulting company where the CEO was guilty of sexual harrassment, but his sins were covered up by telling the public that he decided to retire suddenly, and with a huge financial reward. —Mark, San Diego, Calif.

March 7, 2005 | 12:58 p.m. ET

A weighty double standard against women (Monica Crowley)

MSNBC TV
There was a time when “Rubenesque” was beautiful— when Jayne Mansfield's curves and Marilyn Monroe's size-12 figure were envied.

The Barbie doll turns 46 years old on Tuesday, but don't expect middle age to catch up with her anytime soon. Her long blonde locks won't go gray and nothing will start to sag on her fit-and-trim body.

Then came Twiggy, mini-skirts, and a new ideal. From the supermodels of the '80s, to “heroin chic” in the '90s, women are still expected to conform to the thin-standard.

But men? Now, that's a different story. Hollywood embraces fuller-figured actors:  like Jason Alexander, John Goodman, Danny Devito, and James Gandolfini.

They get jobs based on their acting merits— not their waist size.

The only way an overweight Kirstie Alley could get a job was to make fun of her size. In tonight's “Fat Actress” debut on Showtime, Alley shows a disturbing willingness to debase her self-worth— all for a couple extra minutes in the limelight. It may be okay for Hollywood to make fun of image insecurities and eating disorders: but consider how different the entertainment industry would be if both sexes knew the pressure of being “beautiful.”

Click here to watch video of Ron and Monica's interview with models Carre Otis and Mia Tyler on the subject.

Your thoughts:

The problem with the new push to embrace the plus sizes is a direct result of our exploding obesity epidemic in the United States. While it's tremendously important to get out of the Barbie image in the United States the spawned the eating disorder explosion in the 1990's, accepting plus-size images is not the solution. —Greg Arnold, Complete Chiropractic Healthcare

It's not the public who goes for skinny sizes. It's the advertisers who are unrealistic. — Wayne, Miami, Fla.

One of your guests just gave a statistic of how many boys and men have eating disorders and also feel the pressure to be thin. It was a rather large number! Why not concentrate on them as well? —Jeremy Lancey

Television and movies are supposed to satisfy, to a certain degree anyway, the fantasies of viewers.  To that end, they emply actors and actresses with whom the viewership can connect.  I believe you are correct that John Goodman and James Gandolfini are more accepted in Hollywood than are more full-figured female actresses.  That greater acceptance, however, is most likely born of the fact that many women find these men attractive despite the extra pounds.  I've heard many women (including my wife) purr about James Gandolfini, but I've never heard one of my friends sat they coudln't get enough of Kirsty Alley.  Is this just further proof that men are shallow, narrow-minded pigs?  Oink. —David Binegar, attorney

Society places value on being skinny. Yet we're bombarded with advertisements for double-sized hamburgers, fries and pizza one minute, then commericals for Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers the next. While I agree that obesity is a prescription for a medical disaster, what's worse is a society that uses 6-foot skinny women as the only model for beauty. —Katherine Harriman, Billings, Mont.

March 7, 2005 | 12:48 p.m. ET

Filibuster: The use of obstructionist tactics, especially prolonged speechmaking, for the purpose of delaying legislative action.

On Capitol Hill, it's being called the “nuclear option.” It has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction.  Instead, some in the Republican majority in the Senate are trying to prevent Democrats from further stalling the president's judicial  nominations with non-stop talking. 

They're requesting a change in the rules—that could make filibustering against judicial nominees “unconstitutional.” It's complicated  and very controversial.

What do you think?

As conservative Republicans, we salute the filibuster provision. It keeps one side from bouldering over the other.  The filibuster should stay. No matter who has the majority, the minority must have their say.  That is what is so great about our form of government. — The Hearring Family

March 7, 2005 | 12:29 p.m. ET

Italian journalist/former hostage says she was targetted

Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist who was held hostage, and recently freed, charged that U.S. military forces may have deliberately targeted her car as she was being escorted by Italian agents who had just negotiated her freedom from hostage-takers.

Sgrena— who works for the  communist newspaper Il Manifesto, a fierce opponent of the war and a frequent critic of U.S. policy — said it was possible they were targeted deliberately because the United States opposes Italy's policy of negotiating with kidnappers.

In an interview published Monday in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, she gave a hypothesis.
“I believe, but it's only a hypothesis, that the happy ending to the negotiations must have been irksome,” she said. “The Americans are against this type of operation. For them, war is war, human life doesn't count for much.”

Responding to Sgrena's statement White House press secretary Scott McClellan said “It's absurd to make any such suggestion, that our men and women in uniform would target individual citizens."

The White House earlier described the shooting as a “horrific accident” and promised a full investigation. But Sgrena and an Italian agent who survived rejected the U.S. military's account of the shooting, claiming that American soldiers gave no warning before they opened fire. The shooting has fueled anti-American sentiment in Italy, where a majority of people opposed the war in Iraq.

Click here to read more.

Your e-mails so far:

The shooting of the Italians by the American forces looks more like planned Bush regime retaliation for the paying of ransom.  Unfortunatly this will possibly be the last straw to convince the Italians that they need to leave the coalition. —Donna B., S.C.

As a Vietnam Vet... I manned checkpoints as a guard  many times. It's extremely dangerous...especially at night. But the thing to remember is that all war zones are extremely dangerous. And civilians and non-combatants, must use their heads too, and be responsible to avoid possible mistaken identity when they approach! —Chuck, Southwest Va

I am glad you are covering the Italian hostage situation.  Having been in Iraq 9 times and from day 10 the security factor is vital for to understand.  This is a WAR!  No matter which you cut it. Security and the ability to stay alive is in your hands and the Italians failed to inform. —Nick Ashton

There is no justification for implementing a policy that condones the killing of innocents on the basis of protecting American soldiers. Many innocent Iraqis have died as a result of American use of excessive force. This receives virtually no media attention. In this case it could not go unreported as is so often the case. The concept of "fog of war" is a sorry excuse to justify the use of force against innocents.  —Robert, Boise, Idaho

How do you see soldiers and their hand signals at night? I doubt the soldiers have bright lights illuminating themselves— making them better targets. I bet the soldiers can see an approaching vehicle long before they can be seen. We are in a Rambo mentality there, almost 2 years after Major Combat Operations have ended - Mission Accomplished! I guess only America lives have value... —Rick R.

What happened? I think Italy didn't want anyone to know that they paid a ransom to terrorists for her release. So they didn't coordinate with our troops. They wouldn't have had to shoot at the car she was in if they had coordinated. If journalists want to be in a war zone then they know the score! —Ellie Jackson
Concord, Calif.

To me, the problem with the checkpoints in Iraq is the same as every other conflict, not enough communication.  The checkpoints are very much needed, but there has to be a better way to communicate what is expected of Iraqi citizens when they approach them so as to avoid these public relations nightmares. —Tyler
Chicago, Ill.

It's tragic when civilian lives are lost during the fog of war.  However, the Marines and Soldiers guarding checkpoints don't have the luxury of following politics, they follow orders and apply split second reasoning to life altering decisions. 

Civilians must also use common sense and reasoning when approaching a check point manned by armed guards.  Bottom line: civilians must never speed towards a check point and ignore warning signs to stop.   The checkpoint guards don't recognize journalist who negotiate with terrorists as a means to fire on an approaching vehicles traveling at high speed towards them.  They simply see an approaching vehicle traveling at a high speed.  —Art Espinoza, Chief Warrant Officer 3

Things were certainly heating up on your show during the discussion about the Italian journalist and her party fired upon by the American troops.  Am not sure the investigation will reveal what "really" happened, as most investigations of that kind are usually designed to placate those who were the victims and cover up any mistakes, wrong-doing on the other side.

I understand that this journalist was planning to do a story on Fallujah...a story that the Bush administration would prefer not be told (we leveled the whole place and killed a lot of innocent Iraqis in the process).  I also understand that this journalist was loved by the Iraqi people as she lived in the country with them and was "on their side."  Now she may have been against the war in Iraq, but so were many millions of people in this country and around the world.    Let's face facts.....our military is stretched to the breaking point, stressed out and at this point, trigger happy.   I agree with the woman on your panel who said we should bring our troops home now. Bush wants Syria out of Lebanon.   Well, President Bush, we want our troops out of Iraq. —Sue, Conn.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

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