April 20, 2005 | 6:09 p.m. ET

The TSA's fashion emergency (Monica Crowley)

On September 11, 2001, 19 men boarded four commercial jets and hijacked them using nothing more than box cutters and intimidation. Since that tragic day, the U.S. government has tightened up aviation security to try to make air travel safer. 

Those of us who fly know the consequences: exasperatingly long lines at airports, the humiliations of getting half-naked at the security checkpoints, the possibility of getting a mysterious fungus by having to stand barefoot on the disgustingly dirty airport floor.

But, we like to think that it's all being done in the name of keeping us safer— and making it more difficult for terrorists to once again use airplanes to try to kill us. 

And, in fact, in a typical month, the Transportation Security Administration confiscates 160,000 knives, 2,000 box cutters, and 70 guns. They have also found handguns hidden inside radios and teddy bears, machetes, and many other forms of potential weaponry. 

And now, the TSA has just gotten their second set of uniforms in three years. Yup, you heard that right. Apparently, they want to look sharp while doing all of that confiscating. 

Now, I know that the TSA has a really tough job: they've got to profile for terrorists while not looking like they are profiling, they've got to screen every, single carry-on bag, and they've got to interrogate suspicious characters. Can't make a mistake or people might die. It's a lot of responsibility.

A recent study showed that private security does a better job at airports than the government agency does.  Given that, I would prefer that we spend our tax money on better training for the TSA than buying them yet another set of uniforms.  I don't think Mohammad Atta cared about how snappy security looked; he just cared about getting around them. 

The terrorists are incredibly focused on their mission— and so should we— not on how we look while fighting the war on terror, but on how we are actually fighting the war on terror.

Click here to read more on the wastes at the TSA (L.A. Times, subscription required but free).

E-mail: MCrowley@MSNBC.com

April 20, 2005 | 5:37 p.m. ET  

Arnold's call for border security

Arnold's been sounding a little more like “Conan the Barbarian” than the Governor of California.
“Close the borders in California and all across Mexico and in the United States,” Schwarzenegger said at the annual meeting of the Newspaper Association of America.

Schwarzenegger's spokesman later clarified and said he meant “secure,” and not “close.”

What do you think?

I am very pleased to see that finally some respected Republican like Arnold S.is making some sense.  Closing our borders should have been done immediately after 9-11.  I hope Arnold sticks to his guns on this issue as it probably isn't too popular a view at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
--Powell, Deckerville, Mich.

The reason that up until now noone has had the political guts to address the problem with our boarders is that too many politicians are afraid it's going to cost them votes if they offend the Latino community. Try explaining that to the loved one of a victim that was killed by a terrorist that got in this country by simply walking over the U.S.-Mexican border.
--Todd S., Springfield, Mass.

The labor provided by these illegal immigrants is asolutely essential to maintain low food prices. Imagine the problems we would have if low income families who can barely afford to eat suddenly had to pay $10 a pound for potatos?
--Justin Calhoun, Seattle, Wa.

If you were to require employers to ask if a person is illegal, would it not be consistent to require all public agencies and health care providers to do the same?
--Eugene Wilhelmi, Florence, Ore.

April 20, 2005 | 1:20 p.m. ET  

John Bolton

There's a controversy surrounding the nomination of John Bolton to be America's next ambassador to the U.N.

Last night— after a chaotic day of confirmation hearings— unexpected cracks began to appear in the Republican support for the nominee. The Senate committee has postponed a vote on the nomination and Republicans are now joining Democrats in asking for a fresh look at Bolton's qualifications.

Your e-mails:

I watched almost all the hearings and heard the concerns expressed by Senators Biden, Kerry and Dodge on the left and Hagel, Voinovich and Chafee on the right. This was not about yelling at subordinates. Their concern was not only about temperment in management style, but in Bolton's all consuming drive to support his policy agenda at the expense of the actual intelligence that was reported up to him. They were also concerned with his forthrightness in addressing these concerns and his ability to effectively change an institution that would require great consensus and trust.
—Lee Galtman, Elkins Park Pa.

The Ambassador to the United Nations represents not just Bush and the Republicans but all Americans. Most of the world believes that George Bush is a bully, do we want all Americans to be seen as bullies? —Doreen Suran, Bellevue, Wash

With all the rhetoric and accusations that John Bolton elicits, is he really our BEST choice for the job? Why should we settle for anything but the best? We are not a second rate Nation. I disagree with your guest regarding that he should not be judged by his personality. If he doesn't have the personality can he get his policy accepted?
—Patt Truman, Eureka, Mont.

Is Mr. Bolton being “Borked”? The solution is simple, the Republican Senators should grow a backbone!
— Frank Lawlor, Somers, Conn.

John Bolton will shake up that U.S. hating institution located on First Avenue here in NYC. The Dems looked desperate and so does John Nicholas. —Brian J. Sharkey

I was under the impression that John Bolton was nominated to be the U.S. Representative to the U.N., not the Secretary General of the U.N. How did he become the only person who can reform the U.N.?
—Nicholas Devereaux

April 19, 2005 | 5:55 p.m. ET  

The Church's legacy, tradition, and future

Ron: We've spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks discussing the legacy of Pope John Paul II and the future of the Catholic Church .

If we've learned anything from all of it— it's that there are plenty of challenges and controversies ahead for Pope Benedict XVI. No matter how you feel about the Catholic Church... you can't help but be intrigued, at times moved by the images we've seen of the transition of power in Rome.

Monica: Though they may seem pressing to us now, many of the modern social issues stirring conversation in the Catholic Church will likely be seen as just blips on the radar screen of a tradition that's lasted for centuries.

Think about it: In the United States, we've seen just 43 presidents. In Rome, they've known 265 leaders of the Catholic faith. And somehow through all the challenges each has faced, they've all managed to protect their time-honored traditions.

April 19, 2005 | 5:35 p.m. ET

The new pope and American Catholics

With the election of a new pope—a new era for Catholicism begins. But will Pope Benedict XVI live up to the expectations of a growing and evolving Catholic Church?

It might interest you to know that according to one recent poll, majority of American Catholics don't really want change. A Zogby poll asked whether the next pope should be more liberal, conservative, or about the same, and a majority— 65 percent of those questioned—  said they want more of the same.

As for some of the more controversial topics affecting today's church, Catholics seem split. Nearly 46 percent say they want the church to continue opposing birth control, compared to 52 percent who say they want contraceptive reform.

47 percent say the tradition of an all-male priesthood should be upheld, compared to 50 percent who say it should not.

And close to 48 percent say priests should remain celibate, that's compared to a little more than 49 percent who say that rule should be thrown out.

So there seems to be some division among American Catholics on some of the more progressive reform topics. And that may mean the more conservative Joseph Ratizinger will actually be a good fit for American Catholicism.

• April 19, 2005 | 5:15 p.m. ET

A new pope

We watched along with the rest of the world-- as just before 6 p.m. Rome time, as smoke began streaming from that stove pipe chimney over the Vatican.

There were several minutes of confusion as the billowing smoke changed from shades of grey to, well, whitish.

It wasn't until the bells tolled at St. Peter's Square that the world was sure the College of Cardinals had elected the new pope. And to some, he's a controversial choice.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany is now Pope Benedict XVI.

Your reactions

This is going to make or break the church. There are fractions within it and some strong leadership is badly needed. If a very hard line is taken then many will be lost from the church. If a program of solving issues comes from this with answers it will bring more to the church. John Paul II failed to address many of the issues in his last years. Now they are going to be addressed or people will walk away to find answers.
--John Darts, Slocomb, Ala.

I believe Pope Benedict XVI is a great choice.  An earlier writer indicated that the pope's age may be a bad thing.  I don't believe that.  Perhaps his age was a benefit to his selection.  Perhaps this is a "transitional" pope.  The scriptures are, in my opinion, conservative in nature.  We don't need a pope to lead us down the path that our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion are going right now.  Once again in my opinion, political correctness has no business dictating church dogma.  Sure, there could be some changes that would make sense, but not in the name of political correctness.
--Mark Boyd, Omaha, Neb.

Read more reader reactions on the new pope.

E-mail us at Connected@MSNBC.com.

April 18, 2005 | 5:50 p.m. ET  

The age of reason (Ron Reagan)

The state of Vermont is thinking of lowering its drinking age, now 21 like every other state, to 18. Bad idea Vermont.

I know, your citizens are probably clamoring to turn their charming villages into “part-ay” central for binge drinking teens from all over the Northeast. The bottles and cans strewn along your bucolic country lanes will no doubt compliment the fall foliage.

And many are likely thinking, “Why not let 18 year olds belly up to the bar? We already let them vote and drive.” Exactly: Two things you ought not to do while drunk. Just because we give young people the opportunity to participate in our democracy, just because we give them the keys to the car, does not mean we have to toss in the key to the liquor cabinet.

Recent studies have shown that 18-year-old brains are not fully developed; they've got a ways to go in critical areas of higher reasoning and judgment. Throwing booze into the mix doesn't help. As adults, we have an obligation to do what we can to keep teens safe.

C'mon, Vermont, get a grip! Next thing you know you'll be handing 18 year olds guns, shipping them to hostile countries and telling them to hunt down and kill people... Oh, right.

Well, that does make a more compelling argument, doesn't it?

After a long, hot day of dodging suicide bombers, a tall cold one would taste mighty good. If you're old enough to be thrown into the almost unimaginable hell of modern urban warfare, you might just be old enough to toss one back— or maybe it's the other way around.

In any case, I still think it's a bad idea to lower the drinking age. Instead, let's raise the killing age! No more wet-behind-the-ears prom kings auditioning for the real life lead in “Johnny Got His Gun.”

And why stop at 21? Let's throw the Hail Mary! No combat duty till you're at least as old as the average member of Congress. Or maybe the current president. No, it probably won't do much to curb underage drinking. But I bet we'd have fewer wars.

E-mail RReagan@MSNBC.com.

April 18, 2005 | 5:30 p.m. ET  

Pope frontrunner

There are about eight cardinals considered as serious front-runners for the position, including German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, known to Catholic insiders as the conservative choice.

For the past quarter-century, Ratzinger served as Pope John Paul II's prefect for the “congregation for the doctrine of the faith” which means, essentially, he was the pope's theological right-hand man.

Ratzinger's conservative adherance to Catholic doctrine was once again on display today,  when during this morning's conclave mass, he denounced  those who stray from that doctrine.

And while bookies around the globe are giving Cardinal Ratzinger the best odds in this so-called race for the papacy, his critics say he is a controversial figure— one who could serve as a divisive force in the Catholic Church.

April 18, 2005 | 12:38 p.m. ET  

Election of a new pope

The Conclave of Cardinals is now meeting, deciding who's to become the next pope. That famous white or black smoke could come as soon as an hour from now. But what are the chances the church will select a pope who looks a little bit more like its followers around the world?

Your e-mails

The 'maturity' of the African Church has nothing to do with whether Cardinal Arinze should be pope. If he is the man that would best lead the church, then he should be pope.
--Joe, Pennsauken, New Jersey

The bottom line is, in order for the Catholic Church to thrive world wide, it needs to elect a non-European pope.  Anything else would be a step backward.
--David, Fayetteville,  N.C.

The nomination of John Bolton will just enhance the agenda of this administration, thus promoting more discourse among U.S. relations with other countries. We need a uniter not a divider.
-- A., Providence, R.I.

April 15, 2005 | 5:52 p.m. ET  

The Republican monopoly on religion

Ron: Here we go again Monica: Republicans have a new idea for using religion, for all the wrong reasons. Now they're going to paint Democrats as “against people of faith”—for blocking President Bush's judicial nominees.

On the front page of the New York Times this morning, a story that Senator Bill Frist will lead the charge. According to the paper, Frist plans to give a speech to be telecast in conservative Christian churches across the country.

Monica: But there's nothing wrong with taking the debate over stalled judicial nominees to the people who have a huge stake in it. And besides, I never see a New York Times headline, and I don't hear many liberals complaining when Democrats make their case to their base.

Remember back in October when John Kerry went stumping for votes at a black Baptist church in Miami? Where were the cries for separation of church and state back then?

What do you think?

Please remember what Senator George Mitchell said to Oliver North during the Iran-Contra Hearings: "Although he's regularly asked to do so, God does not take sides in American politics." Now our Senate Leader is attacking the religious convictions of the opposition party.

I am a Republican and I go to church.  I cannot agree with what is going on with the republicans trying to own "regligion" and/or "God."  I almost always agree with Ron's position and I am tempted to become Democratic due to the republican rhetoric.  Do the religious Republicans believe in free will? 
—Maria, Wynewood

People should be utterly shameful for their desire to label Democrats as unreligious people.  Just because you seek protection for the underdog, and you want the Constitution of the United States to uphold its purpose in protecting the minority, does not make someone unreligious.  I find it funny that "conservatives" wanted science to keep Terry alive, but they do not want science to advance any farther through stem cell research that may save hundreds or thousands of lives.  Being Democrat does not make you non-religious.  Moreover, wanting to uphold separation of Church and State should not keep you from being religious either.

I find it laughable every time I hear Monica make mention of the "liberal media," which she is obviously not a part of.  Neither of course is Bill Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Pat Buchanan, the Washington Times and countless other written and television media.  Once the conservatives have convinced the country that the liberal media boogieman is responsible for exaggerating all of their shortcomings and failures, they have effectively wiped out any accountability for their actions because it can all be chalked up to a left wing conspiracy.
—Christopher Wade, Waterford, Miss.

I'm confused! I'm a Catholic democrat. As I understand the Bible, Jesus said to protect and help feed the poor. The Republican so-called "religious" base who back George Bush,  apparently agree with his politics--the politics that are over-taxing the poor and middle class, taking away school lunches, taking policemen off the streets, closing firehouses, starving old folks, etc.  I don't think they understand the teachings of Jesus and would urge them to go back to the Bible.
—Carol M.

I do not like it when people use religion for their political gain. Jesus had a similiar problem with the Pharisees.
—GWB in Neb.

April 15, 2005 | 1:02 p.m. ET  

Birth control

There's a political debate brewing at the pharmacy.

Some pharmacists across America are taking a moral stand and refusing to fill certain  prescriptions, including birth control, the morning after pill and other contraceptives.

It's such a hot-button issue, now some congressional lawmakers are getting involved. Representatives from New Jersey and New York are pushing for new legislation that would require pharmacies to fill prescriptions for the morning after pill  despite their religious or moral beliefs. And in Illinois, the governor issued an emergency ruling earlier this month to force pharmacies to accept and fill prescriptions for contraceptives.

This has many asking, does a pharmacist have the right to follow his or her own moral beliefs?

Your e-mails

Americans should use their freedom by boycotting these drugs stores that don't fill birth-control prescriptions. There should be a list of these stores so they will know to stay away.
—Richard Gebo, Lakeland, Fla.

I'm a nursing student in Hot Springs, AR.  We just had an assignment related to this issue.  In a town of over 30,000 people and countless pharmacies -- only 1 in this town carries the morning after pill and it was the only pharmacy that said they would honor the prescription and fill it.  Please don't tell your viewers this is an exaggeration of "not being able to get their birth control."  It happens everyday -- I know, members of our class had to do a survey of the local
—Rita Wilson

A pharmacist has no right to morally judge another persons prescription. What will be next. If a man comes into the pharmacy for a prescription for Viagara, will he have to prove he is married? Isn't it morally wrong for someone to have intercourse outside of being married? Will they object to giving pain medication to someone because they will be afraid that person may become addicted? Wake up people look where this is going, we as women are losing our rights to make adult decisions with our medical doctors. America the free? I question that now everyday.
—Linda Nicholas, Gilbert, Ariz.

I believe if a Pharmacist only has the right to refuse to fill a prescription if he owns the pharmacy, like a retailer has the right to refuse service to a patron.  If a Pharmacist is employed  by a retailer like CVS or Wal Mart then he or she has a fiduicary duty to the employer to serve the customer, not questions asked.
—Wesley Wood, Terrell, Tex.

Assume I work in a bookstore and refused to sell Bibles on the grounds that it goes against my personal beliefs. I would be usurping the rights of the purchaser to free thought. This is what the refusniks pharmacists are doing. They are usurping the rights of people to obtain legally available birth control that is sold at the pharmacy.
—Mark Thompson, Appleton, Wis.

I didn't know that the V in CVS stood for Vatican. It's not fair for someone to accept the job and then start to impose their morality on others. I suppose that the next time a pharmacist is morally opposed to smoking, he will refuse to sell the "Patch" to a customer. If you don't want to fill legal prescriptions, being a pharmacist might not be a wise career path.

I'm a certified Paramedic whose accreditation, like Pharmacists, is regulated by government. As a Paramedic, should I be allowed to refuse a DNR (do not resuscitate order) when presented with a valid copy by a family member? Should I push the family member aside and forcefully intubate and administer cardiac drugs because of my beliefs? Likewise, should I not administer life saving care to a prostitute? This issue is easy. You are licensed and must obey the oath of your occupation.
—Dan Fritz, Cleveland, Ohio

April 15, 2005 | 12:22 p.m. ET  

Dems softening on gun control? (Ron Reagan)

Howard Dean came very close to being the Democratic nominee for president last year. But that outspoken and fearless attitude that got him so much attention early in the campaign may well have contributed to his downfall in the primaries.

Fear not, Doctor Dean is back. As the Democratic National Chairman, he's using a 50-state strategy to try to return the White House  to the Dems in 2008. And tomorrow night, he returns to the national stage with a major policy speech in Los Angeles.  We can expect a kinder, gentler dean.  Once upon a time, he accused Southern voters of basing their votes on “race, guns, god and gays.”

But now, it looks like Dean won't even be including gun control in his party platform.
“Guns aren't an issue,” Dean recently said. “If Philadelphia wants gun control, fine. If Alabama doesn't, also fine.”

Guns aren't an issue? But the Democratic party used to be champions of gun control.

Your e-mails

It is obvious by his outlandish rhetoric that your guest Peter Hamm is chasing a non-issue when it comes to gun control. Peter and his Brady Campaign cohorts have been unsuccessful in their efforts because they are not in favor of sensible regulation — instead they seek to prevent all Americans from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights. With more than 65 million gun owners in this country it's no wonder the Democrats are distancing themselves from radical groups like the Brady Campaign and their rhetoric.
—Michelle Semones, Alexandria, Va.

The Democrats have done far better by standing up against the thoroughly ignorant positions of the NRA, rather than by caving in to them. The more they appease, the more they lose elections.
—Dan Goulder, Cleveland, Ohio

You make it sound like this policy is new to Howard Dean. Although the Democratic party is changing their tune on gun control, Howard Dean is not. Very early in the primaries he very clearly pointed out that he agrees with the state control of guns —not the federal government.
—Joel, Franklin Mass.

Gun control should be an issue. Americans should have the right to carry guns, but they should also have the right to not carry guns. For those who are not comfortable around guns and own a gun only because they have the right, we should have a national gun retirement program. Guns could be handed in and destroyed at local police departments. We could have billboards showing how many guns are in the public and how many have been retired. Make it a national effort. We need national leadership in this area, regardless of politics.
—Craig Cheatum, Houston, Texas

Its frustrating when my co-workers, union members no less, commit political and economic suicide for themselves and their families by voting for the big-business Republicans solely on account of the Gun Control issue. Howard Dean is right to let the states and communities decide.
—RD "Beau" Bowlin, Green River Wyo.

Through the ignorance of the gun lobby, terrorist and arms dealers can come into the United States and buy all the guns that they want to use against the United States. I wonder how many guns being used by the insurgency in Iraq, to kill our troops, were purchased in the United States?
—Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton Wash.

April 14, 2005 | 6:30 p.m. ET  

Seacrest's star on walk of fame? (Monica Crowley)

Big names line the Hollywood Walk of Fame, making it a California tourist attraction. But some of those stars seem to be getting some questionable company lately. You can't argue that big names like Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Ronald Reagan deserve their spot. They're real American idols.

But now Ryan Seacrest is getting one?

Just because he's the host of “American Idol”  doesn't mean he is one.

Don't forget, his daytime talk show was canceled! But apparently that doesn't matter: He will  get his place in entertainment history next Wednesday, alongside the other stars on Hollywood Boulevard.

E-mail MCrowley@MSNBC.com

April 14, 2005 | 5:37 p.m. ET   

Remember Bin Laden? (Ron Reagan)

About six days after 9/11, the talk was right out of an old John Wayne movie. President Bush said Bin Laden was wanted “dead or alive.”

It didn't take long for reality to set in: Afghanistan is nothing like the old West.

The mistakes made at Tora Bora proved the shadowy world of Bin Laden makes him a difficult target. And so the talk softened. By March 2002, the president and his advisors started using words like “marginalized” and “neutralized” to describe Bin Laden. The focus shifted from catching one man to disrupting the organization he controls.

But can Al-Qaeda ever really be stopped without capturing the man who inspires its followers?

Those occasional audio tapes promising new attacks on America can make the images of 9/11 seem like only yesterday. And friendly reminders— like the one from Germany, pointing out mistakes made certainly don't help to make the case that we're winning the war on terror.

He may not be strolling around the hills of Afghanistan anymore… but even in hiding, Bin Laden is able to remind us he's still out there.

Your e-mails

Has Osama bin Laden not accomplished his goal already?  Why would he need to spend the time, money, and man power to perpetrate another terrorist attack on the U.S., when the government, and people are already living in fear.  Fear runs rampant now, civil liberties  are disappearing, and Osama has won the war.  There is no real need to do another large scale act of terrorism.  Maybe, we, as a global community, need to act together to make the world a better, more inclusive place to live in, rather than working against each other thinking who is our next enemy?
—John, Ontario

Looks to me like Bush clearly, diverted our efforts into Iraq from Laden. He accomplished this by appearances on National TV, exaggerating and deceiving with selected intelligence. Every reason for his war has been proven wrong.

The reason we have not found Bin Laden is caused by the lack of troops and resources.  I say send another 50,000 troops from Iraq to Afganistan and our odds could only improve.  Bin Laden is our target, not small time thugs in Iraq.
—Nick, Longmont, Colo.

Why do the liberals keep complaining that U.S. outsourced the Tora Bora job but also complain we need to get out of Iraq and let them control their own country? I know they are two different missions, but don't be a flip flopper. Maybe we should have gone in our selves. But don't say that, then complain we are in IRAQ too long.  
—Steven Kline, Shelton, Conn.


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