Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Okay, now we're getting somewhere.

As you know, Peter Roskam, who's running to succeed Henry Hyde in Illinois' 6th district is one of the seven congressional candidates currently on our "Straight Answer Wanted" list of Social Security phase-out weasels. And he and Tom Kean (R-NJ) are currently the subjects of our latest contest to see who can be the first to find out where these two guys stand on the issue of whether or not to phase out Social Security.

Anyway, as TPM Reader RC points out, getting Roskam to come clean on where he stands will not be an easy task. Roskam is currently in the Illinois state senate. And last year state Sens. Martinez, Collins and Hunter introduced a resolution calling on Congress to oppose private accounts, i.e., to oppose the Bush plan which was then still before Congress.

That gave state senators an opportunity to go on the record on whether they opposing phasing out Social Security or supported it. The vote was 32 Yeas (i.e., they opposed phase-out) and 19 Nays (meaning they supported it.)

So how'd Peter Roskam vote? Well, you can see the roll call here. He decided duck out that day. He's down there as "NV".

The vote was on May 20th, 2005, four days after Roskam announced his candidacy for the House seat on May 16th. So you can see why Roskam decided not to make it in that day.

(Update: As TPM Reader TCB notes, Roskam made it to plenty of other votes the same day. He just bailed when the Social Security vote came up.)

Now, the current contest prize for finding out where Roskam stands is the TPM t-shirt and the TPM mug. But clearly Roskam is some sort of arch-weasel on Social Security and it'll be a profound challenge to ever get him to come clean. After all, Tom Kean in New Jersey showed up for a similar vote in the New Jersey state senate not once but twice. So, in light of Roskam's extenuating weaselhood we're upping the bounty for a t-shirt and a mug to a TPM t-shirt and two TPM mugs.

So if you're up for a challenge, see if you can get a straight answer out of Roskam. See the contest rules here for further details.

AG Ashcroft's tight ties to Jack Abramoff revealed. Including special skybox love. Is Ashcroft lawyered up?

Hmmm. TPM Reader ML asked me whether I knew where Ned Lamont stood on the issue of Net Neutrality. I said I didn't know. And he pointed me to this passage in an interview Lamont did last month with Jonathan Singer at MyDD ...

Singer: Let's talk a little bit more about telecommunications. Again, your background is in that area. Specifically, you've worked in the cable industry. I was wondering if you had some thoughts on so-called "network neutrality." I know a number of cable companies, the cable industry in general, is pushing for an opportunity to make more of a profit off of data that is sent over their wires, over their cables, over their fiber optics. Yet there is a concern that by allowing them to tier the internet, it will decrease Americans' access to certain information, perhaps on political reasons or perhaps just because companies don't have the money to pay the big Comcast and AT&T, etc. Where do you come down on the net neutrality debate?

Lamont: As you point out, I started up a company some years ago and we compete with the largest cable companies out there. You mention Comcast and AT&T. We primarily provide service to college campuses. We build systems at probably a couple hundred campuses around the country.

It's very important that you don't allow the ISPs and the large operators out there to determine who gets access to what content. When it comes down to net neutrality, this is a pipe and we're providing equal access to all of the content providers out there. And the last thing you want is large conglomerates picking and choosing who gets access to what.

I can understand where if there's some services that use up a lot more bandwidth than others, there's a tier or cost that's associated with that. But when it comes to content, when it comes to what people can see, everybody has equal access to that, and again you can't have, again, conglomerates picking and choosing and making those choices on behalf of consumers. That would be wrong, like de facto censorship.

That's not as clear cut an answer as I might have thought. The issue of tiers for high-bandwidth content is a pretty central issue to the debate. Here Lamont says he's for Net Neutrality.

TPM Reader ER writes in asking which email address to send Social Security updates to. Send them to our regular comments email address, which is talk(at)talkingpointsmemo.com. TPM Reader ES says that Rep. Sue Kelly's (R-NY) office told her this morning that Kelly is in fact opposed to phasing out Social Security and replacing it with private accounts, even though her website lists no position. So we're trying to get to the bottom of that. I tried calling the congresswoman's office to ask her spokesman if she's come out against privatization. But he wasn't available to take my call. If you're in Kelly's district, what have you heard from her?

Are there any TPM Readers out there from New Jersey or Illinois? If there are, we've got a contest for you. Actually, you don't have to be from either state. But folks from New Jersey and Illinois might be most motivated.

As mentioned earlier, we've been starting to compile our nationwide list of Social Security phase-out weasels -- congressional candidates who refuse to reveal whether they favor preserving Social Security or phasing it out and replacing it with private accounts (aka, the Bush plan).

So today we're starting out with two candidates: senate candidate Tom Kean, Jr. (R-NJ) and House candidate Peter Roskam (R-IL), who's running for the 6th District seat in Illinois.

In both cases, it's pretty clear they support President Bush in his desire to phase out Social Security and replace it with private accounts. But now that an election is coming they refuse to state their views publicly. From what we can tell, Roskam's site contains no mention of Social Security at all even though signs indicate he'll support phasing it out as President Bush says he'll try to do next year if he keeps his majorities in Congress. Kean's site ducks the issue. So we're looking to find out clearly and definitively which side they're on.

Are they for phasing it out? Or against phasing it out? Which is it?

If you can find out where either Kean or Roskam stands you'll win a special TPM 'Privatize This' t-shirt, a TPM mug and ... and a special place in our new TPM Hall of Social Security Heroes.

So, how do you find out? Well, all sorts of ways. You can pose the question at a town meeting. You can call in on a radio call in show. Candidates have to campaign and that means going out and meeting voters and answering their questions. So there are plenty of opportunities. You can do research on the web. You can call their campaign office and ask. Maybe some reporter in the area gets a scoop and gets the candidate's position. If you're the first one to send us the link to the article, you win.

(Sub-contest: If you get a chance to pose the question to Kean or Roskam and you have a video or audio recording or the question is written up in the press, you'll win a special runner-up TPM mug, even if Kean or Roskam weasel out and refuse to answer your question. In fact, anyone who can provide particularly choice examples of Social Security weaseldom from Kean or Roskam will be awarded a TPM mug.)

Here are some quick rules.

1. If you find out where a given candidate stands on phasing out Social Security, the answer must be independently confirmable by TPM reporters. For example, if you ask a candidate at a candidate forum and you get an answer, you've got to have some sort of proof -- a tape recording, a video, a news write-up of your question being answered, etc. Different circumstances will require different sorts of proof of authentication. But the point is that we can't just take your word for it.

2. You are encouraged to be creative and persistent in your quest for an answer to this critically important question. However, any evidence that a contestant's behavior has been disrespectful, harrassing or in any way inappropriate will be grounds for immediate disqualification. Be firm, polite and persistent.

3. Full-time, professional journalists covering the races in question are not eligible. (This is mainly a favor to them. If they won by doing their job, it would place them in an awkward position anyway.)

4. All questions about what constitutes a straight answer and who got the answer first are to be decided by TPM.

We'll be announcing other contest candidates soon.

TPM Reader PK on the Lieberman meta-message ...

My moment of Zen today came a few minutes back when I was checking in on your site, reading your morning post on the Lieberman situation (geeze, if only he was a tad less dry you could have the makings of a Robert Ludlum novel there) and listening to Randy Newman's "Political Science".

I think you nailed it. While the progressive community has been hammering Joe for this decision, the fact remains that the flat-out politics of his announcement yesterday scream fear and cowardice. The best play would have been a decisive course, one of the two you offered...either challenge Democrats to support Joe Lieberman, life-long Democrat or play the "I'm doing what's best for the people of Connecticut" card. But going the "I've been around long enough to have my cake and eat it too and deserve better than having my ass handed to me by a political newcomer" route, Joe has essentially abandoned ship and pushed the women and kids out of the way to take the last remaining lifeboat for himself.

Not the best move given the fact that it plays into his overriding negative, which you mentioned and which I will call "the weasel factor".

Okay, so ... North Korea test fires four missiles, one of which was the long-range Taepodong-2. The Taepodong-2 failed about thirty seconds after lift-off.

Press reports frequently claim that the Taepodong-2 is capable of hitting the United States. The fine print is important, though. As the Times notes in their dispatch today: the Taepodong-2 "is thought to be potentially capable of reaching United States territory in Alaska, if North Korea perfects the technology. But that ability has never been demonstrated in a test. (emphasis added)"

It's a serious issue that bears watching. But also note that UN Ambassador John Bolton is the lead-milker of this story.

Okay, enough about Joe Lieberman for the moment, how about giving TPM some tech advice? As a number of you know, I bought my first Mac a few months ago. And at the moment I have a PC at home, which I'm writing on now, and a Mac over at TPM HQ -- the reverse of the normal bi-OS set up. Now, we're planning on adding a video component to our offerings at TPM. So I'm looking at different machines that are high-powered enough to deal well with video editing. My limited experience working with video on the Mac Mini I have at work tells me that the Mac really was pretty impressive working with video on the ease of use -- 'it just works' -- front, even working with HD video. But because of Mac's transition to their new Intel processors, the most high-powered machines they have are the souped-up iMacs. (The G5s Mac is selling still have the old PowerPC processors -- so they're soon to be out of date.) Has anyone out there done video editing on one of those machines? I'm wondering whether it makes sense to get one of those or whether I should get something in the PC world. Advice appreciated.