Iowa Is Curious Outlier On All Time Magazine Polls

The other day, I put up the results of a funny Time Magazine online poll that declared the Daily Show's Jon Stewart America's Most Trusted Newsman, probably because the poll was designed to elicit that response. I learned two interesting things from that post. First, apparently there are a ton of very earnest people who did not get my joke about Stewart winning Time Magazine's Person of the Year award in 2006, which everybody won. That joke usually kills, but clearly, it needs to go back to the workshop, for tweaking.

The other thing I learned is that Iowa seems to have a tortured relationship with Time Magazine polls! In the Trusted Newsman poll, Iowa results favored Katie Couric, by a wide margin. But the overall results placed Couric in last place. Over at BuzzFlash, Matt Stopera took a look at previous polls and noted that "Iowa always seems to be on the opposite side of things."

It's quite curious. These polls would have you believe that Iowa is a redoubt of countering opinions. According to these polls, unlike the rest of the U.S., Iowa thinks that the U.S. should take a "stronger stance on the Iranian electoral crisis," that going to the moon wasn't "worth it," that North Korea should not go back on the the terrorist list, that Sarah Palin aided her electoral chances by quitting her job, and that Congress should not pass a resolution honoring Michael Jackson.

I'm not at all sure why Iowa is so consistently anomalous. And obviously, I don't want to put myself in danger by getting TOO CLOSE TO THE TERRIBLE TRUTH! But it seems to me there are three possibilities, here.

1. There is one very committed guy in Iowa who's dedicated himself to ruining Time Magazine polls.

2. Rick Stengel hates Iowa, and is miscounting their votes in an attempt to make them look stupid.

3. The ethanol lobby has their finger in every pot, and people refuse to pander to them at their peril.

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Howard Fineman On GOP Health Care Strategy: ‘Stand On The Sidelines With Their Arms Folded’ (VIDEO)

Appearing on Countdown last night, Howard Fineman gave MSNBC viewers the alternative proposal for health care reform being proposed by the GOP:

FINEMAN: I talked to people on [Capitol] Hill all day today, talked to Republicans as well as Democrats. Republicans claim they have a plan -- they don't. They claim they're going to have a plan -- they won't. Uhh...their whole strategy is to stand on the sidelines with their arms folded, while the Democrats try to work this thing out. That's their whole strategy.

Asked how not delivering a health care proposal benefits Republicans, Fineman stated, "Well I don't think it does. A lot of Republicans, privately, when they are in their...sort of, non-tribal moments will admit that."

I don't know. As strategies go, though, it's not bad. And it's a pretty well-funded one as well! Via the Sunlight Foundation, here's a chart of the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee -- the "key arbiter on the many sticking points of the proposed legislation" -- and what they're getting for all that arm folding:

It's nice work if you can get it, and then do no work! And all that money is going to go a long way to getting incumbents re-elected, whether they start proposing health care reform innovations or not. With regard to the guns the GOP has trained at their own feet, Fineman is on stronger footing when he discusses that fact that they've become the party of talking "about racial fears and resentments" and "about where Barack Obama was born."

WATCH:

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Eric Boehlert: I Wish the GOP Noise Machine Would Make Up its Mind About Identity Politics

Currently it's quite confusing because depending on the week, and depending on the actors involved, the Noise Machine is either adamantly opposed to identity politics (Judge Sonia Sotomayor), and any discussion of racism in America (Prof. Louis Gates/Barack Obama), or the Noise Machine loves identity politics and wishes more people (like Harry Alford) would call out white politicians as racists.

Like I said, it's become quite confusing to watch. But what I have been able to determine from watching the Noise Machine ping-pong back and forth is that when Democrats or liberals raise the uncomfortable issue of race it's bad, bad, bad. But when conservatives or Republicans raise the issue of race against a Democrat, it's a very, very good thing.

For those trying to keep score at home, when Sotomayor was being confirmed, conservative pundits were universal in their claim that identity politics, especially when practiced by African-Americans and Hispanics, was abhorrent and should be avoided at all costs. That it was a divisive crutch Democrats used for political gain. And during the confirmation hearings, lots of conservative voices didn't even try to hide ugly racial stereotypes.

But then hold on! Just days later during a House hearing, pro-business conservative flak Harry Alford appeared before Congress on behalf of the GOP to argue against pending energy legislation. When he didn't like innocuous questions being asked by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA.), Alford cried racism (he claimed Boxer was getting all "racial), and guess what? Right-wingers loved it. The Noise Machine rallied around Alford and unveiled its previously invisible concern from racial equality in American politics.

And then when Alford made the rounds on right-wing radio and embellished his encounter with Boxer -- when Alford suggested the senator had called him a "little jiggaboo" and "little Negro" -- the Noise Machine loved him even more. Finally!, they cheered, somebody who would stand up to the racist ways of American politics!

But apparently that we-shall-overcome feeling evaporated this week in the wake of the news regarding the arrest of Gates, the African-American Harvard professor who claimed he was mistreated by Cambridge, Mass. police; a story Obama discussed at a White House briefing.

Instead of cheering Gates and Obama for raising the uncomfortable question of race (the way the right-wing had cheered pro-business flak Alford and his attack on Boxer), the Noise Machine retreated to its previous Sotomayor stance and lashed out any anyone (except Alford, of course) who dared cry racism. They hated the way Obama (aka "Racist-in-chief") joined Gates' "knee-jerk" protest about inequality in America.

So, just to sum up the right-wing stance, and to help folks keep score moving forward, let's review:

  • Sotomayor identity politics = bad
  • Alford identity politics = very good
  • Gates/Obama identity politics = the worst

Crossposted at County Fair, the Media Matters blog.



Journalism Boot Camp: Trapped in Qatar’s Labor System, a Belgian Tweets for Help

By Clifford Cheney

"My name is Philippe Bogaert. I am a hostage in Qatar. This is my Twitter SOS."

Belgian national Philippe Bogaert has posted this message to the social networking site regularly since May. Bogaert alleges that he has been held hostage since last October in exchange for the debts of his former employer worth $4.4 million.

"It's modern slavery," said Bogaert during an interview in the wealthy Persian Gulf state's capital of Doha. "Your freedom (lies) in the hands of one company, or by extension one person."

2009-07-24-PhillipeBogaert.jpg

Bogaert's story is a warning for those contemplating working in the Gulf. Attracted by the prospect of a generous, tax-free salary, what many do not know is that they are entering a confusing labor system where even the wealthiest can suddenly find themselves trapped.

Like thousands from all over the world, Bogaert came to work in oil-rich Qatar, where foreign workers make up 70 percent of the country's 855,000 residents, according to the Gulf Cooperative Council.

In Qatar, as in other Gulf states, foreign workers require a sponsor to receive a work visa, a policy known as the Kefalah system.

Critics of Kefalah claim it allows human rights abuses because it places too much power in the hands of sponsors, who are always nationals. They often dictate where people can live, withhold pay and refuse exit visas with no recourse for the worker.

Many foreigners within Qatar asked about their experiences with the Kefalah system often said they knew many people who had problems. But out of fear, none wanted to speak to a reporter.

"There are many kinds of these issues cropping up, not just in the Gulf states," said Professor Ray Jureidini, Director of the Center for Migration Studies at The American University in Cairo. "There are no numbers because no one is registering these complaints on a systematic basis."

A professional broadcast manager, Bogaert left his family in Belgium when he moved to Qatar in 2008. He saw the opportunity as a "dream job" working for a company named Dialogic Qatar, a subsidiary of the Belgian media consulting company Dialogic SA.

The company's sole client was the Qatar Marine Festival Committee (QMFC), which, according to its website, "ventures to revive and celebrate all elements of Qatari ancestral way of life ... through a variety of cultural, social, educational, entertainment and sports events and activities."

Bogaert says he was unaware of any problems with Dialogic Qatar or its relationship with QMFC when he arrived in April. But when the company's managing director was fired, he said he took an offer to replace him July 11 in "order to try and save the contract and the company." He later called this the worst decision of his life.

Assuming leadership of the company, Bogaert said, he discovered payments from the QMFC were behind and that there was "no proper accountancy." He initiated an audit on his first day and said there were problems, but that no criminal issues were found after two months of examination by a Qatari accounting firm.

According to a notice from QMFC, their decision to cancel the contract with Dialogic Qatar ten days after Bogaert took the management position was because it "was not delivering up to their standards."

The company's Belgian shareholders voted not to collect the outstanding payments from QMFC, worth $7.3 Million, and to liquidate all assets.

It was during the liquidation process when Bogaert began experiencing problems with his Qatari sponsor, Farukh Mohammad U K Azad. Azad is a Qatari of Pakistani decent who received his citizenship in 2006 under new immigration laws. Azad holds 51 percent share in Dialogic Qatar in exchange for his sponsorship of the company.

According to Bogaert, Azad blocked the corporate liquidation process by refusing to participate, as he would be held liable for Dialogic's remaining debts under Qatari law. Azad also canceled Philippe's exit visa the day after he signed on as the new head of Dialogic Qatar.

When Bogaert saw that there was nothing he could do to get Farukh Azad to participate in the liquidation process, he sent a letter of resignation to the CEO of the Belgian parent company in October 2008 and it was accepted. But Azad refused to recognize Bogaert's resignation and has denied all his requests for an exit visa.

Bogaert remains in limbo. He cannot leave Qatar. He cannot work for another company in Qatar without permission from his sponsor. He is unemployed and without housing, which is usually provided by sponsors as part of most employment packages in Qatar. He has not been paid since last June.

Bogaert alleged Azad then began numerous criminal and civil prosecutions to try and pass the blame for the company's failure onto him, though the losses occurred before he took the Managing Director position.

The primary case is a civil case seeking compensation for Dialogic's debts, equaling $4.4 million. The judge suspended the case when Azad failed to appear three times in court.

Multiple attempts to contact Farukh Azad for comment by phone were unsuccessful.

The case remains dormant on the docket until Azad reopens or cancels. Bogaert cannot get the Ministry of the Interior to override Azad's blockage of his exit visa while there is a pending legal case.

"When charges are brought against someone who wants to leave, whether it is true or not, it takes time to go to court," Jureidini said. "It's a long process that is very much in favor of nationals."

Phillip was also convicted June 22 for bounced Dialogic checks he signed as managing director that he explained were covered when he signed them. "But they weren't at the moment that they tried to cash it," he said. "I paid from my own money that I borrowed from my father as a guarantee for company debts in order for to have my travel ban lifted for that."

The conviction carries a three-year prison term with hard labor.

Bogaert said he is still free within Qatar while he tries to raise money for the required Qatari lawyer for his appeal. Even if he loses his appeal Philippe will most likely not serve time in jail. He said he will just lose the guarantee money.

Bogaert has received refuge and has been provided a room at the Belgian Ambassador's personal residence. He said he currently plays piano in bars for tips to make money at night.

Bogaert continues to promote his case online on Twitter (@hostageinqatar ), his blog (http://hostageinqatar.com) and on Facebook.

Clifford Cheney has worked for the Baylor Office of Public Relations and spent a year as a Lab Instructor in the Baylor Journalism Department. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Photojournalism at The University of Texas and working as a freelance photojournalist in the Central Texas area. His photos have appeared in USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Sports Illustrated.


Paula Froelich’s Big Page Six Lesson: “Celebrity Is Fleeting”

Ultimately, then, what has she learned from "Page Six"? "I bought a house in the Catskills once, where this woman had lived for many years, and I cleaned out her stuff. And in the attic were 30 years of National Enquirers. And going through, you learned an instant lesson: Celebrity is fleeting. Most people, if they're lucky, can get on the cover of the Enquirer for a one-to-three-year span, and then they're done. The only person from ten years ago the Enquirer is still interested in is Oprah. And Julia Roberts. She's on the downswing. At this point, she could kill a cat and maybe get on, but otherwise they're like, "Whatever, Julia.' "