April 27, 2005 | 5:52 p.m. ET

Dangerous addiction sweeping the nation (Ron Reagan)

America and the world are facing a new and insidious threat. According to a recent study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard, our IQs are under assault, our ability to concentrate is being compromised, and personal relationships are suffering.

Lethargy, loss of productivity, and general muddle-headedness are overtaking more and more people. And it’s addicting.

Worse, the threat is seemingly inescapable— it invades our homes; it waits for us at work; it even lurks in our children’s schools.

Says Glenn Wilson, the psychiatrist from London University who carried out the study, “This is a very real and widespread phenomenon.” According to Wilson, the average IQ loss was measured at 10 points. That’s more than double the loss found in heavy cannabis users.

What is this menace? Some new kind of crack? Another methamphetamine? A tastier chocolate or epidemic of spring fever? No, it's e-mail.

Apparently, all that compulsive checking for and responding to e-mail is rotting our brains. And eroding public civility—which, let’s face it, was already a bit shaky. While 9 out of 10 people agreed that e-mailing during face to face meetings was rude, a third of them nonetheless felt that this was quote, “a sign of diligence and efficiency.”

Dr. Wilson disagrees and urges a change in our work habits. “Companies”, he says, “should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working.”

Right. You’ll excuse me if I don’t hold my breath.

The good doctor is no doubt well-intentioned, but he misses the mark. It’s clear what is needed here. A new government department headed by an “e-mail czar.”  Then, the launch of a “war on e-mail” complete with color-coded threat levels - fuscia, you’re safe; paisley, your in-box is full. Three strikes and you’re shipped to a friendly dictatorship where you can be tortured with impunity.

This is no time to go soft! The threat is here. The threat is now. 

E-mail RReagan@MSNBC.com

April 27, 2005 | 5:35 p.m. ET

Florida's shoot first, questions later?

Ron: So it's official— people in Florida will soon be able to shoot first and ask questions later. 

Governor Jeb Bush has signed a bill we talked about a few weeks ago into law. It gives whole new meaning to the idea of self-defense. Sounds like the old west is returning—in the sunshine state!

Monica: Well Ron, in a way it already has— because of violent crime. The only difference now is that law-abiding people will have the chance to defend themselves! The law governor Jeb Bush signed yesterday goes into effect October first. It had huge support among lawmakers.
The law offers protection to people who use a gun to fight back when they feel they are under attack. Of course, they have to follow all the other laws on the books for carrying a gun. Governor Bush believes this just makes sense.

Your e-mails

Typical of her other opinions on social issues, Ms. Crowley's stance on the Florida "use of deadly force" ruling reflects a complete of factual backing. Of the thousands of gun related deaths that occur every year in this country, less than one percent of them are determined to be justifiable homicide. Ms. Crowley's stance is nothing more than typical right-wing
pandering to irrational fear.
--Rob, Storrs, Conn.

If I killed someone "in self defense" in Florida while there is no one present. Will officials believe me, for my word alone, that I was in danger and everyone will not challenge me? I can tell you, I will not be going to Florida soon.
--Douglas Deane, Hyannis, Mass.

There is one good thing about Florida's new "shoot first, ask questions later" law. Hopefully all of Jeb Bush's sex offenders will shoot to death each other first.
--Brian David Smith, San Diego, Calif.

Now we can shoot first and question later-- how wonderful is that?  There is a lot of road rage here in Florida and this las will really help all these angry people.  God bless the NRA.
--Barbara H., Malabar, Fla.

To those who object to this law I say to them no one will take away my right of self-survival.  NO ONE will deny me the right of defense of my family.
--Richard Thibodeau, Hypoluxo, Fla.

My husband was in a laundromat in Pensacola, Florida.  He has just had
MAJOR cancer surgery and still had stitches in.  A very large, aggressive woman got extremely aggressive with him over the use of a dryer and then left.  A few minutes later, her even larger husband came in and attacked my husband -- saying he (my husband) had assaulted his wife. In this situation, who is in the right? The other man -- for defending  his wife (who by the way was NOT physically threatened by my husband)
or my husband, who was barely able to walk let alone defend himself, who WAS physically attacked by this man?This is the chicken and egg -- this law is repulsive and tragic! A long time Florida resident -- not thrilled with the direction of my state.
--R. Hammett

This law sets a dangerous precedent.  I think we would have even more to
fear with open season on public season. How is anyone to verifyy if someone was threatening someone or not?  What if no one is there to witness a self defense shooting?  Do you just take the word of the shooter?  Maybe he just wanted to kill the person, and now it seems at least in Florida, he could.  No thank you to this
barbaric law.
--Loring Leeds, Santa Monica, Calif.

I have been carrying a Glock for almost 6 years now. I have spent hundreds of dollars in training and practice. Thankfully I have never needed to draw my weapon but I am glad to have had it. I always am thinking what if I had to shoot. I am not a cowboy and never wish to shoot anyone. My gun is to protect me and my loved ones. If to protect myself I have to shoot a bad guy I will do so with no regret and will deal with the legal mess later.  In response to Ron's statement about worrying about untrained people carrying a firearm, let's make it easier to find training.
--Mark S.

I think this Florida law is a good thing.  The law has so long protected criminals, and victims have a few rights, if any. If you are not out robbing people, you won't be in a position for this law to matter
--David of Indianapolis

I may think twice before touring Florida if the person across the street may find himself in danger and start shooting at will. Will Mickey be packing?
--E. Wilder, Wells, Maine

I am truly scared for young Black and Hispanic men. There are always paranoid white women out there who think that every non-white man wants to rape them. Now, they can shoot first because they “fear” being assaulted, without any provocation and without any consequences. This new law is total madness!!
--Claudette Walker, Kingston, Jamaica

E-mail Connected@MSNBC.com

April 27, 2005 | 1:23 p.m. ET

Actress' 9/11 comments spark controversy (Monica Crowley)


Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal is attending the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this week, to promote her new movie about New Yorkers coping with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. 

Asked about that tragic day, Gyllenhaal is quoted as saying that the United States “is responsible in some way” for the attacks. When all heck broke loose over that remark—with New York firefighters, police officers, and victims' families expressing outrage—she tried to clarify her statement, by issuing another one.

September 11, she said, was “an occasion to be brave enough to ask some serious questions about America's role in the world. Because it is always useful as individuals or nations to ask how we may have knowingly or unknowingly contributed to this conflict. Not to have the courage to ask these questions of ourselves is to betray the victims of 9/11.”

So instead of apologizing, she just made the situation worse. Instead of criticizing the U.S., perhaps she might consider criticizing Osama bin Laden and al Qeada, Saddam Hussein, Hamas, Iran, or any of the world's other terrorists. 

Attacking the good guy— us— while letting the bad guys off the hook is standard operating procedure in Hollywood.  In their eyes, the U.S. is always wrong, bad, evil, while the actual forces of evil in the world are somehow victims of poverty, of American policy, of being “misunderstood.”  

Give me a break!

This tearing down of America may play well in Hollywood, but the rest of us don't take too kindly to it. And by the way, Ms. Gyllenhaal, we are the ones who can choose not to support your movies. So, say whatever you want— but understand that it may have consequences.

E-mail MCrowley@MSNBC.com.

April 27, 2005 | 12:38 p.m. ET

Are we winning the war on terror? (Ron Reagan)

According to the latest U.S. count, world terror attacks more than tripled last year. The number of “significant” attacks up from 175 in 2003— to 655 in 2004.

It's an upswing that includes that bloody school seizure in Russia and increased violence in Kashmir.

And then there's Iraq. Terror incidents there are also up, from 22 attacks in 2003 to 198 in 2004. That's nine-times as many.

It's a tricky topic for the Bush administration. A growing tally have been threatening to challenge the president's assertion that the United states is winning the war on terror.

Maybe this is why there have been reports that the state department may not release all of these statistics in its annual, congressionally-mandated report.

According to the Washington Post, State Department Counterterrorism Chief Karen Aguilar argues the stats aren't "relevant" to the report on global terrorism trends.

But Former counterterrorism official Larry C. Johnson isn't buying it. He says, “They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it terror that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing.”

Here's what some of you are saying...

How can we possibly know if we are winning the "war on terror?" Bush did not even allocated adequate resources to Afghanistan because he was too busy fighting in Iraq after telling us lies about why we were there. Also, there is very little reporting in the daily news about Afghanistan or Iraq unless you watch the BBC or some other foreign news service.
--Ray Lewis, Salem Ore.

The war on terror is not a win/lose situation. It's about containment. Terror will never be totally be defeated, however, a better question is: Is the U.S. doing a good job of MINIMIZING the incidence of terrorism?
--Jeff, Shelton, Conn.

Whenever the numbers benefit this administration they use them to bolster their position. When the numbers are against them they downplay them and say they're not a true indicator of whatever they are trying to convince us of. It's a tried and true Republican tactic.
--Glen, West Babylon, N.Y.

It doesn't matter whether the war is actually happening and since decisive victory isn't possible, it doesn't matter whether the war is going badly.  All that is needed is that a state of war exists.
--Jim, Kansas City, Kan.

How can the statistics of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan count? Aren't these countries at war, and any attack be classified as an act of war rather than terrorism?
--Jeff Tacket

Please remember terrorists waited 10 years after the first attempt on WTC before they committed the final murderous tragedy. To say President Bush has stopped another attack is crazy. You can look to our borders and see how much has been done.
--Gerry French

We will win the war on terror the same day we win war crime, drugs, and soon to be sex offenders. None of these will ever be won as one can "win a war." Maybe some day people will change, but trying to rally people by using the word "war" just don't get it done. So how can you win ?
--Richard A Woodward, Broomfield, Colo.

April 26, 2005 | 5:23 p.m. ET

It's gas prices, stupid! (Ron Reagan)

The talk these days inside the beltway has been about filibusters, presidential nominees and expense-account accusations.

But come on. Do you really think Americans are that concerned with federal court judges, U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton, or House Majority Leader Tom Delay's alleged improprieties?

Even the president is out of touch. He's defending Sen. DeLay, saying, “I appreciate the leadership of Rep. Tom DeLay for working on important issues that matter to the country.”

He's missing the point. Most Americans consider oil prices an “important issue,” but we don't really hear anyone fighting to bring down the price for the average consumer. A recent  associated press/AOL poll found that 51 percent of Americans believe that if fuel prices remain high for the next six months, it will become  a “financial hardship.” that's 51 percent.

So we're paying more at the pump, Social Security is no longer guaranteed, and oh, there's a war going on.

Your e-mails

So what's new? Congress and the president have not done much about the real issues. They seem to ignore the things that effect real people like me. GAS Prices for example. Bush seems to get obsessed with one thing and forget about the rest.
--Bruce Tostenrud, New Ulm, Minn.

The only answer to energy is to start using alternative fuels, investment in technology and hybrid cars.  Let us look at the gentleman that converted his deisel fuel vehicle to run on vegetable oil. Hello, start investing in all alternatives and technology.
--Barb, Crystal, Minn.

In fact the price of oil, Social Security and the war are the biggest issues to Americans regardless of what commentators on MSNBC say about politics. You guys do not understand real Americans who are trying to make ends meet.

April 26, 2005 | 12:54 p.m. ET

What would Jesus do... about politics? (Ron Reagan)

Perhaps you've heard of the phrase “What would Jesus do?” It's a question some Christians pose when faced with a crisis designed to help them make the right decision.

But should that question extend to all facets of modern day life, including politics?

When headed to the voting booth— Republican or Democrat— “What would Jesus do?”

Well, with the line between Church and state blurring more with every election, that's just how some politicians want you to think.

For example, on last weekend's “Justice Sunday” was an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to have Christian voters back judicial nominees. And, of course, President Bush has been known to refer to God now and again.

But while the push seems Republican, consider this: www.jesusisaliberal.com is a website that contends that the savior was not a Right-wing Republican  saying  “Jesus was a pluralist liberal who... rejected greed, violence, the glorification of power, the amassing of wealth without social balance, and the personal judging of others, their lifestyles and beliefs.”

So with all of this confusion, some, I guess, can't help but ask, what would Jesus do?

Your e-mails

I think Jesus would have been an independent.  He would do what is right regardless of what other people thought.  It is sad that today's polititians don't think about right and wrong only what makes them money.
--J.R., Kearney, Mo.

Jesus was a relentless nonconformist. Liberal is too weak of a word!  If he were American and lived today, Fox News would be bashing him nonstop. Jesus would have most likely opposed the invasion of Iraq. He'd be called unpatriotic and anti-American. he'd be on every watchlist with homeland security and FBI on his heels. How come he turned posthumously into such a conservative force?
--CM, N.Y.

Clearly Jesus was a liberal.  He spoke of caring for the poor and ill so he was a bleeding heart.  He was unjustly killed by the death penalty and stopped the only execution he was witness to.  He said to love one's enemy so he was a pacifist and he clearly believed in the separation of religion and politics.
--Tim Dean

Jesus would be neither. Organizations of man are always corrupt.  Man can never live up to his teachings.  That is why he gives us Grace.
--Randall, Tenn.

I have no doubt that Jesus' beliefs today would be consistent with communism. Unfortunately, we have maligned that ideal by equating it with the totalitarian governments of U.S.S.R. and China.
--Robert Jackson Jr., Fla.

Do you really think Jesus would want such divisive labels as ‘Liberal' or ‘Conservative'? I think not.
--Dan, Marble, Colo.

April 26, 2005 | 12:30 p.m. ET

Are the Democrats stalling? (Monica Crowley)

Congress is headed for a bi-partisan meltdown. Democratic legislators are preparing to block the president's judiciary nominees, are stalling on a John Bolton vote, are contesting proposed Social Security reform, and are peddling accusations against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

This was supposed to be a time of legislative progress. But all this bickering has put pretty much everything on hold. Whatever happened to those calls for unity, spoken not only by Republicans but by Democrats as well?

President Bsh began his second term with some swift victories—including a measure to curb class action lawsuits and one that reformed personal bankruptcy protection.  But now,  a warning: If GOP  leaders make good on their threats to cut off democratic filibusters, the left will put the brakes on even the most routine legislation.

And Bolton's nomination for U.N. ambassador? That may also hang in the balance. 

As for Tom DeLay, some say this time-consuming controversy was conjured as a way to hide democratic policy holes. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal says, “They want this to be a political issue next year, because, since they don‘t have a social security, since they don‘t have a plan on the budget, they‘re going to repeat the Republican tactic and run against a corrupt Republican Congress.”

What do you think?

The government of the United States has gone absolutely crazy they are not governing for the people of this country. [Politicians] should get back to the job they have been elected to do ----Patty, Canton Ohio

Whenever you have some conservative complaining or criticizing the use of the filibuster would you please just ask him if it was proper and OK for Senator Frist to filibuster against Clinton's choice of Richard Paez seven years ago, and if so why it isn't now?  Why aren't you people pointing out the absolutely screaming hypocrisy of Frist and the Republican party?
--Alex Vine, Tallahassee, Fla.

What's all the fuss about? Who says Government Gridlock is a bad thing?  Is there any actual evidence that a productive Congress makes our lives any better?  Maybe having Washington doing as little as possible is best for the country. If they do nothing, they won't make things worse.
--Mark V., Bethesda, Md.

The people in Congress who are not rolling over and approving Bush's agenda are representing the people. I am sick of the legislation passed so far that benefits big business and appointees to satisify the far right. We are not stupid. We know who the legislature has represented so far.
--Bob Henninger, Prescott, Ariz.

April 25, 2005 | 5:41 p.m. ET

Frist, faith, and the filibuster

Politics used to be politics— debates and deals made inside the beltway. But a new partisan battle has moved politics from the House and Senate to the altar. And the pulpit.

Last night, a 90-minute simulcast was beamed to evangelical Christian churches across the nation. Dubbed “Justice Sunday,” the program was dedicated to criticizing Democratic opposition to ten of the president's judicial nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist appeared for six minutes and urged Democrats to stop stalling on an up-or-down vote. But Democrats say politics shouldn't be mixed with religion.  Last night was the most dramatic show of evangelical political power since election day, when born-again Christians made-up 23 percent of the voting public. An astounding 78 percent of them throwing their support toward President George W. Bush.

It's a political trend one group says is eerily similar to the “moral majority” movement of the early 80s— so similar in fact, that Norman Lear's group, “People for the American Way” are using an ad they put together 25-years ago to fight this new conservative battle.

What do you think? Do faith and politics mix? Or are the Democrats really anti-faith by threatening to filibuster?

Your e-mails

The filibuster was put in place to balance power.  The ethics rules were put in place to balance power and keep the Senate and the House honest.  Now we see that the Republicans do not want either.  Be afraid, very afraid!!!  Religon has no place in politics.  If one looks to history that is very apparent.
--Barb, Crystal, Minn.

The Republicans are not trying to take over "everything." However they are parying on peoples faith. Faith suggests trust without question, and that should never be extended to politicians. They are only interested in furthering their own agenda.
--Hector Acuna, Phoenix, Ariz.

The danger of religious goverment: Remember at one time, our forefathers came for their religious freedom.  This religion caused many innocent people to be burned at the stake. 

Conservative Christians have a right to express their opinion about the filibuster issue - individually or as a group. I would hate, however, for this issue to be marginalized by any particular faction. The filibuster issue needs to be discussed within the framework of whether or not "majority rule" means anything in this country. The minority party needs to win at the ballot box in order to stop such appointments - not play obstructionist politics on the floor of the Senate.
--Delia, Emmons, N. Caldwell N.J.

The blogger on your show should have been introduced as a right-wing blogger. His report was very one-sided on reactions on the blogs. Since there was no report on the other side of the issue, his report was disappointing and misleading.
--Michelle, Westport Conn.

I think politicians of both parties have overestimated the role of religion in the 2004 election. People voted Republican for a number of reasons--many simply because they are Republicans, others  because the Democrats didn't offer anything better. Certainly the Republican party attracted every right wing extremist group out there, whether their issues were religion, war, white supremacy, or whatever. The point is, most people were not voting Republican in order for the Christian Right to take over the party. Anyone who has any doubt as to whether faith and politics should mix needs to read the Constitution.
--Shar, Md.

I am and a Christian, consider myself born again, am more Democrat than Republican and lean to the left. I wonder what the Republicans are so afraid of that they are unable to allow government (filibusters) to proceed as normal. Why do the Republicans feel they have to "control" everything and force their opinions on everyone? I think religion should be left out (the Constitution calls for separation of Church and State and Jesus told us to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's) and the Republicans should learn tolerance and how to get along with one another. 
--L. Wills, Warrensburg, Ill.

Can you say Flip Flop Mr Frist?? Mr Frist repeatedly used the filibuster during the Clinton administration but now that the tables are turned he wants to do away with the age old process. The hypocrisy is mind boggling. Also, lets not forget that there was a reason why our forefathers sought separation of church and state. History need not repeat itself on this issue. Religion and politics should not mingle.
--Karen Pollock, Chaska, Minn.

The growing power of Bill Frist is extremely troubling.  His reference to Democrats as “against people of faith” for blocking Bush's judicial nominees is very bothersome.  I just read today that Bill Frist is a Presbyterian.  I am too, and in all my 70 years of attending Sunday School and Church all across the country, I feel that my faith which embraces everyone is very far afield from Bill's.  
--Carol Polley, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Once the GOP destroys Senate rules to serve their own needs, they open themselves up to pay back!  What goes around comes around.  The GOP will not always be in power and when they are the minority the Dems can stick some very liberal judges down their throats.  Where oh where is moderation????
--Barb & Don

If a judge puts his religious laws above the countries laws how can a person of a different faith expect a fair trial or decision?  If my faith has a different set of laws, would it be subject to the rules of their faith?  I think we should ask this question of nominees.

If I remember correctly Congress and the president were elected to represent the will of all the people, not the ones they just happen to agree with. Religious commitment is fine but has no place in politics. According to the Constitution, Congress shall make no law which respects religion.
--Robin, West Lawn Pa.

Sunday night's broadcast was a group of Americans (who are also Christians) making their point of asking that judicial nominees be voted on and not stalled indefinitely via the filibuster. Just vote yes or no and get on with business. Born-again Christians support conservative judges and are using lawful ways to make their opinions known.
--Meg, Ohio

I'd like to know how the Republican Party become the "religious" party when they are the ones who pre-emptively struck a country and killed many thousands of civilian Iraqi people and almost 1,600 of own soldiers. 
--Diane, Holiday, Fla.

Can someone please tell me what is new about politicians appearing with religious figures to affect change? Didn't Bill Clinton appear at black churches all overthe country on a regular basis? Doesn't the NAACP host functions featuring politicians? Please! This is no different and I am appalled at the left's schock, schock! that this is taking place!
--Krissy Alonzo, La Palma, Calif.

April 22, 2005 | 12:41 p.m. ET

Product placement taking over TV and theater?

Ron and Monica take a crack at product placement.
In the early days of TV, programs were commercial free but presented by a featured sponsor—such as the GE theater hour hosted by a certain future president.

Not even the nightly news was immune: The “Camel news caravan” on NBC had a stipulation that a camel cigarette had to be seen burning visibly on the set.

Soon product placement moved off of the small screen and found a home on the big screen. And who better to sell the latest hi-tech and hip gadgets “007”?

Today, product placement is back in full swing on television. Each week on NBC's “Apprentice”a variety of products compete for air time with the The Donald. And it's impossible to watch “American Idol” without seeing an ad for Coke.

Now Madison Avenue has even come to Broadway: The Hormel company is reaping the rewards from the latest show to take Broadway by storm. Monty Python's “Spamalot” is giving the canned meat the most attention it's received since World War II.

April 22, 2005 | 12:27 p.m. ET

What's the delay over DeLay?

In what seems like an unlikely move, Republicans are now leading the charge into an ethics investigation... and the Democrats are backing down .

It may seem like something out of a parallel universe, but democrats say they have their reasons for holding off, while republicans are striking while the iron is hot.

Republican Doc Hastings called for an investigation into DeLay's now infamous trips to South Korea, Russia and the U.K.—trips paid for by outside organizations.

So what's the hold-up, Democrats?

While they once relished the controversy, the top Democrat on that committee is now turning down the offer for an investigation. He says Republicans want total control of the investigation and that's just un-ethical .

“If we're going to have an ethics committee, we have to do it right and the first principle of doing it right is that it be bipartisan,”  says Rep. Alan Mollohan/(D) Ethics Committee Chairman.

What do you think?

The Democrats are doing the same thing the Republicans did when Clinton was President. This is pay back time, the Democrats are fighting against Tommy boy.

The solution to the U.S. House ethics logjam is to vote them all out in 2006 and elect a whole new slate. The country certainly could not be any worse off and there would be a real net gain in ethical behavior.
--Scott Leonard, Southlake, Tex.

The government of the United States of America is suppose to be "government of the people, by the people, for the people"  it is not to be "government of big business and corporate greed, for special interest groups, for Tom DeLay". Put the U.S. first and Tom DeLay last.
--Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, Wash.

I'm tired of hearing about this being a battle between Republicans and Democrats. This is a Tom Delay problem and he should get a full bipartisan inquiry, not a one-sided Republicans investigation.
--Chad, Calif.

Had this happened to a Democrat, and by the way I am an independent, they would have buried him under the White House somewhere!
--Dianne, Murray, Ky.

April 21, 2005 | 6:04 p.m. ET

Jane Fonda isn't sorry (Monica Crowley)

In 1972, Jane Fonda was at the height of her fame, a movie star and icon in her own right, out of the shadow of her famous father.

That's when she decided to use her fame to oppose the war in Vietnam. Jane Fonda took to the streets here at home to let her views against the war be known. But she didn't stop there.

She took her show on the road: to the enemy. During her stay as a guest of the North Vietnamese government, she climbed atop an enemy gun  used to shoot down American airplanes.

She broadcast messages on Radio Hanoi, telling American pilots to disobey orders and stop their bombing runs. And she betrayed American POWs, who covertly identified themselves to her, only to see her tell the enemy that they had tried to communicate with her.

She now says that her trip to North Vietnam was a large lapse in judgment.

But she doesn't regret the radio broadcasts or taking her opposition to the war to American soldiers in harm's way. 

And that's precisely the problem. Jane Fonda has a new book out, and soon, a new movie. Her so-called “apologies,” coming 30 years after the war, now ring hollow and opportunistic. She just doesn't get it: She sided with the enemy.  She endangered the lives of American soldiers.

And she betrayed her country.

Which is why a Vietnam Veteran, Michael Smith, spit on her this week in Kansas city . I am not condoning what Mr. Smith did.  But I certainly understand the anger that led to his action.

She jeopardized his life and the lives of his buddies.  She gave huge propaganda value to the enemy.  And she turned her back on her country.

Those who fought for this country have no respect for her, and I can't blame them.
Her half-hearted apology was not a request for forgiveness. And that tells me that her character hasn't changed one bit.

E-mail MCrowley@MSNBC.com.

April 21, 2005 | 2:30 p.m. ET

Hot on e-Bay: Pope Benedict XVI merchandise (Ron Reagan)

It has been a period of joy and sorrow for the world's Catholics. It was sadness at the passing of John Paul II; joy at the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

The Church lives on with a new shepherd for the flock. Now, we can all go back to practicing our everyday religion: making and spending money. Yes, it's time once again to worship at the altar of the impulse buy, while still honoring the new Holy Father.

To that end, we can turn— as we so often do— to the Internet and that purveyor of all things sacred and profane, e-Bay.

Don't be the last one on your block to celebrate the papacy with a trendy, stylish “Papa-ratzi” T-shirt. You'll want to accessorize with a handsome and handy Pope Benedict tote bag. Bids start at a low, low six dollars, but keep in mind the $5.99 standard flat-rate shipping charge within the U.S. And for the holy man in your life, why not a rugged, handsome, oh-so-timely Benedict XVI wristwatch, sure to draw admiring glances in the confessional?

So many ways to celebrate the Vicar of Christ with a purchase: novelty street signs, bumper stickers (so you can roll with the pope), and the ever-popular fridge magnets.

But you're thinking, I want something unique, something special, something... miraculous. Bit of bad news there. Like they say, “the early bird sees the Virgin Mary in the grease splatter.”

Well, until this morning you could find a popcorn kernel described as the new pope waving his holy hand. It's gone now - hopefully not eaten. Some other precious items have also been removed from the site—an M&M said to be the spitting image of benedict.  No word on whether we're talking plain or peanut there. Even more disappointing is a humble potato divinely formed in the uncanny likeness of Joseph Ratzinger is also no longer available— who knows— maybe it was even stuffed and double-baked.

If only the original Church father, the apostle Peter himself, had had access to eBay. Think of how he could have scored with a scrap of shroud or a splinter of the true cross!

E-mail RReagan@MSNBC.com.

April 21, 2005 | 12:35 p.m. ET

Has tofu gone mainstream?  (Ron Reagan)

Have bean sprouts sold-out? Has granola gone corporate?

Big-name companies are looking to cash in on the organic food movement. But what does this mean for the small family farms that started the trend? It's an issue we first read about earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal.

The word “organic” first arrived on the food scene back in the 1970s. It was kind of an umbrella word, encompassing the ideals of a natural, healthier, almost commune-style of living. But more than 30 years later, some complain the organic moniker has been sold-out to corporate America.

Organic foods now generate an estimated $10 billion dollars a year in sales, due in large part to big-name manufacturers—seeking their piece of the pesticide-free pie. Heinz now owns a piece of “Hain Celestial.” French yogurt and water giant “Danone” bought a majority share of “Stonyfield Farm.” General Mills took over “Small Planet Foods”  in 1999. Kraft bought the company that makes “Boca-Brand” meat substitutes. And Coca-Cola has acquired both the “Odwalla” and “Fresh Samantha”  organic juice lines. This helps put organic foods on the shelves of chain supermarkets across the country.

But there's worry the natural food boom is  blurring the definition of what “organic” really means. They argue factory-made products from corporate America shouldn't be lumped with food produced by farmers who aren't really that concerned with the “bottom line.”

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


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