Archive for ‘Video’

Thoughts on the 3rd Presidential Debate: Foreign Policy

By , 23 October, 2012, No Comment

I watched last night’s presidential debate with a group of wonks and journalists at the Council on Foreign Relations. It was interesting to be among people who care deeply about international affairs, given that most voters don’t.

Indeed, knowing that foreign policy won’t win them this election, both candidates took every opportunity to pivot the discussion to the economy. Moreover, the candidates agreed with one another on almost all the issues they touched on. Together, the tactics of agreement and evasion made for an uninformative 90 minutes.

But, a few things that jumped out at me:

1. As expected, the candidates used the question on ‘America’s role in the world’ to spar over the defense budget. Most viewers will remember this segment for President Obama’s quip equating Romney’s push for greater naval spending to a demand for ‘horses and bayonets.’

But what I found notable was the contrast between Romney’s planned cuts to government social spending and his desire to double down on military spending that even the Pentagon doesn’t recommend. The important thing to understand about this debate over defense spending is that it has very little to do with foreign policy and everything to do with economic stimulus. As Daniel Drezner put it in his comments at CFR yesterday, defense expenditures are about the only form of Keynesianism the contemporary GOP supports.

2. I tweeted on Sunday that it would be a big surprise to see either candidate talk seriously about the centrality of women – their empowerment, their role in public life and in civil society – to American foreign policy. Last night, I was pleasantly surprised to see the topic come up, and even more astonished to find that it was brought up by Mitt Romney. Most likely, that’s because Romney has a wide gap to close with women voters, but I welcomed the comments nonetheless.

3. I was pleased that Bob Schieffer raised the topic of drone warfare. At CFR, Rachel Kleinfeld of the Truman Security Project noted that her organization’s polling of its audience indicates that drone warfare is among President Obama’s most unpopular policies, rivaled only by his failure to close Guantanamo Bay. Given that, it’s a shame that Mitt Romney didn’t use the opportunity to push back against the policy: the American public deserves to hear the issue debated in full.

It’s not just a humanitarian issue – though the civilian casualties from drone warfare are an outrage. It’s also a strategic issue, in that the use of a deeply unpopular policy hurts American soft power around the world.

Most concerning to me is the fact that this kind of high-tech war often takes place away from the public eye. We focus heavily on the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of a broader debate about the ground war there. But how many Americans know that the U.S. is also using drones to intervene in Yemen, or Somalia? Because drone warfare can be pursued without putting any boots on the ground, those interventions have happened with little to no public scrutiny. To my mind, a military technology that can be deployed without public debate is a technology that makes wars more likely, and that’s dangerous.

I talked about this, and the rest of the Afghanistan portion of the debate, on Huffington Post Live this morning. You can watch my segment here.

Has the Business Press Failed the Public Trust?

By , 14 March, 2012, No Comment

That’s the title of a panel I recently moderated on behalf of Public Business, featuring New York Times business editor Larry Ingrassia, Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon, Wall Street Journal reporter Suzanne Kapner, American Banker reporter Jeff Horwitz, and Columbia Journalism Review business media critic Dean Starkman. Here’s some video of the discussion:

I’ve also archived some tweets from the night, and written up a few highlights for the Public Business blog.

We’ve Launched, Part 2

By , 25 April, 2011, No Comment

Public Business is now launched in London as well as New York. More video goodies, thanks to Flashboy:

Public Business Launch, London, Part 1 from Maha Atal on Vimeo.

Public Business Launch, London, Part 2 from Maha Atal on Vimeo.

We’ve Launched

By , 17 April, 2011, No Comment

Wednesday night was the launch of the nonprofit I’ve mentioned before, Public Business. There were some short planned speeches from myself and our board co-chair Anya Schiffrin, but the highlight for me was the discussion that followed, in which audience members got up, open mic style, and riffed on the idea of public interest business reporting. I was gratified, stimulated and moved and would like to see that style of free discussion as a regular feature of our events. Check it out yourself. H/t Mike for the video.

Public Business Launch Event, New York from Maha Atal on Vimeo.

Raymond Davis and the Media

By , 5 March, 2011, 2 Comments

The Raymond Davis saga in Pakistan is far from over, and I’ll have a piece sooner or later on the implications, broadly, for US-Pak relations. But there’s a meta-story that’s worth taking note of now: the coverage of the story in the Pakistani and international press. Essentially, Davis’ CIA status was being floated in the Pakistani press for several weeks before it ‘broke’ in the Guardian. It turned out that the New York Times and other American news organizations had deliberately held back the information at the request of U.S. authorities. Though a similar request was made of the Guardian, the paper’s editors and reporters refused.

As a reader of the Pakistani press, I’d seen the CIA claim, but in part because of the easy way in which the CIA is used as a bogeyman in Pakistani political discourse, I must admit I was skeptical of the claim until the Guardian verified it. As a critic of the Times’ inconsistent policy about withholding information for ‘the safety of the subject,’ I’m disappointed, but unsurprised, by their call on this one. Points to the Guardian for getting it right. For more on the details, this video from Al Jazeera’s media-watch show, Listening Post, is good:

The story is amusing coming on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s takedown of the American media at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week. Clinton asserted that the U.S. is losing the global information war because of the frivolity in American journalism: you don’t feel when watching American news stations, she says, that you are getting real news.

Problematically, one reason American news outlets don’t deliver enough ‘real news’ is because they comply too readily with the intelligence agencies trying to win that information war. Yet another example of misaligned agendas coming from the State Department and the CIA.

More on the Rally

By , 16 November, 2010, No Comment

via the voracious media-consumer bjkeefe, I’m watching this video now, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow on the Rally. I won’t make any comments, as you already know my take on the event.

History Matters

By , 18 October, 2010, No Comment

I just posted this in a mammoth comment on Google Reader, but the comment is basically as long as the post its commenting on, so it really needs to be its own blog post. I was responding to Matthew Yglesias’ post on whether reading spoilers on books and movies and TV shows detract from the experience:

I think “spoilers” aren’t nearly as bad as people make them out to be. I knew Macbeth dies in the end before I read the play, I knew that Troy falls because they stupidly let a wooden horse full of Greek soldiers into the city walls, and I knew that things weren’t going to work out for Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky.

Foreknowledge doesn’t ruin these works or any other work of quality. If anything, it’s the reverse. If you look at a well-constructed story—be it Season 3 of the Wire or the Great Gatsby or whatever you like—I think you’ll find that knowledge of where things are headed enhances your ability to appreciate the mastery with which the story has been put together.

There is definitely something to the post, especially the bolded part, which is one of the reasons I so frequently re-read favorite works. But at the same time, I don’t like the way he’s lumped together this collection of great works from different eras. As I commented:

Fresh Thoughts on Aid

By , 23 September, 2010, No Comment

I’ve got two posts up today on ‘out of the box’ thoughts about aid. Namely, the push for a more political/human rights approach, the push for a financial transactions tax, and the push for more reliance on public pressure and social media awareness campaigns. Me, I’m in favor of the first two. I’m also pretty seriously impressed by the two pols who made those arguments, Angela Merkel and Bernard Kouchner. Merkel for her ability to take what is actually a left-wing idea and fit it into a center-right argument. Kouchner for his astounding rhetorical gifts–I’ve never seen anyone own a press pool that way. I particular enjoyed when he told one reporter that she was asking a ‘non question.’ You can enjoy his witticisms here.

As for the third, everyone here will already know that I’m a skeptic about digital democracy. So I won’t repeat myself, just refer you to the interview.

Getting Serious for a Moment

By , 3 February, 2010, No Comment

Latest blog post, on the trillion-dollar question of Indo-Pak peace:

‘…These days, optimists are focused on a new effort by two leading newspapers—the Times of India and The News in Pakistan—to promote “Aman ki Asha,” or “Hope for Peace.” In Delhi, the campaign is ubiquitous: billboards, posters, and television advertisements, some featuring major Bollywood lights. But the simple one below, where Pakistanis are trying to request a song on Indian radio, is my favorite.

The goal, says the News, is “mobilising popular pressure for peace on the establishment of both countries.” The mechanism, says the Times, is “a series of cross-border cultural interactions, business seminars, music and literary festivals and citizen meets that will give the bonds of humanity a chance to survive outside the battlefield of politics, terrorism and fundamentalism.”

Looking back on the last year, and speaking to politicians here in Delhi, I am skeptical…’

Here’s the video I reference. But read the whole post, and comment, at Untold Stories.

Video: The Phantom Dog

By , 19 January, 2010, No Comment

I’m back on BloggingHeads today, this time talking up my work in Pakistan with Zeke Webster (alias: Don Zeko) of the blog Discord. We cover counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in general, US counterterrorism/counterinsurgency in South Asia, what Pakistan is really thinking, and the rights of South Asian women. Though they just posted this to BHTV, we filmed in mid-December, when I was in Karachi, and before the last wave of attacks in Pakistan and in the U.S. Some of this is outdated, but hopefully it still informs and entertains.

Comment here.

*Title Character is revealed at 10:28, 24:05 and most hilariously, at 42:00.