Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

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Film Review: "Burt's Buzz"

| Thu Apr. 17, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Burt's Buzz

EVERYDAY PICTURES/FILMBUFF

Jody Shapiro's documentary profiles Burt Shavitz, the thick-bearded, staunchly frugal, middle-aged Maine beekeeper who cofounded Burt's Bees, following his rise from hip 1960s photographer to the unlikely brand ambassador for a multimillion-dollar skin and body care empire. As a portrait of the compelling curmudgeon, Burt's Buzz isn't quite as penetrating as one might hope for. But it's an oddly charming peek into the world of corporate celebrity through the lens of a guy who apparently wants nothing to do with it. "No one has ever accused me of being ambitious," Shavitz says. And, of his intrusive fans: "I'd like to point the shotgun at them and tell them to be good or be gone."

Stephen Colbert Is Replacing Letterman. Here Are His Best—and Worst—Political Moments

| Thu Apr. 10, 2014 2:27 PM EDT

On Thursday, CBS announced that Stephen Colbert will replace the retiring David Letterman as host of Late Show. (Mashable reported last week that Colbert was the network's top choice to take over for Letterman.) When Colbert leaves for CBS, he'll be leaving behind The Colbert Report at Comedy Central, where he has played the part of fake conservative cable-TV commentator since 2005.

We're assuming that once he starts his gig at Late Show he'll be doing less left-leaning political satire than he's used to. So here's a look back at his very best—and very worst—political moments over the past few years. And no, #CancelColbert does not make either list:

THE BEST:

1. Colbert slams the Obama administration's legal justification for killing American citizens abroad suspected of terrorism: "Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock, paper scissors, who cares? Due process just means that there is a process that you do," Colbert said in March 2012. "The current process is, apparently, first the president meets with his advisers and decides who he can kill. Then he kills them."

"Due process just means that there is a process that you do" is pretty dead-on:

 

2. The Colbert Report's incredibly moving, stereotype-smashing segment on the openly gay mayor of Vicco, Kentucky: "To get your point across, sometimes you just gotta laugh," Mayor Johnny Cummings told Mother Jones, after the segment aired. "That's how I look at it. So I thought, OK, The Colbert Report would be perfect."

"If God makes 'em born gay, then why is he against it?" a Vicco resident asks in the clip's moving final moments. "I can't understand that. I've tried and tried and tried to understand that, and I can't."

 

3. Colbert on The O'Reilly Factor: Bill O'Reilly still seems to think that Colbert, the satirist, is doing great damage to this country.

 

4. Colbert's roasting of President George W. Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner:  "Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32 percent approval rating," Colbert said. "But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality has a well-known liberal bias."

For a transcript, click here.

 

5. Colbert's surreal congressional testimony: He testified (in character) before a House hearing in 2010 on immigrant farm workers. He offered to submit video of his colonoscopy into the congressional record:

 

6. Colbert was a two-time presidential candidate who used comedy to highlight the absurdity of the post-Citizens United election landscape. Here's his recent letter to the IRS, in which he requests the opportunity to testify at a public hearing:

Stephen Colbert Comment to IRS

 

THE WORST:

1. That time he used Henry Kissinger as a dance partner: The former secretary of state and national security advisor has been accused by human rights groups and journalists of complicity in major human rights violations and war crimes around the globe: In Chile (murder and subversion of democracy), Bangladesh (genocide), East Timor (yet more genocide), Argentina, Vietnam, and Cambodia, to name a few.

So it's odd that Colbert would feature him in a lighthearted dance-party segment last August. The video (set to Daft Punk's hit "Get Lucky") also includes famous people whom no one has ever accused of war crimes, such as Matt Damon, Jeff BridgesBryan Cranston, and Hugh Laurie:

 

2. The other time he made Kissinger seem like a lovable, aging teddy bear: Kissinger was also on The Colbert Report in 2006 during the Colbert guitar "ShredDown." The following clip also features Eliot Spitzer and guitarist Peter Frampton:

 

Colbert's apparent coziness with Kissinger is even stranger when you consider how Colbert has blasted "the war crimes of Nixon," and has said that he "despair[s] that people forget those." Perhaps he forgot that "the war crimes" he spoke of were as much Kissinger's as they were President Nixon's.

Anyway, viewers can hope that when he's hosting on CBS, there will be fewer musical numbers featuring war criminals.

Dear Hollywood: Please Don't Make the New "Battlestar Galactica" Movie About Drones

| Tue Apr. 8, 2014 7:07 PM EDT

Universal is planning a major film reboot of the sci-fi franchise Battlestar Galactica, according to a report in Variety. Jack Paglen (Transcendence) has reportedly signed on to write the screenplay, and original series creator Glen Larson is set to produce.

I have one modest request: Don't make it a movie about Obama's killer drones. Please. Don't do that. It's super zeitgeist-y, but please, just don't.

The rebooted Sci-Fi Channel series, which ran from 2003 to 2009, garnered much critical acclaim, in large part because it was smartly topical and political. That reboot focused on war between human civilization and the cybernetic Cylon race. The series worked as an allegory of the War on Terror, and incorporated themes of religious extremism, suicide bombing, and state-sanctioned torture. Many images called to mind the Iraq War, Nazi occupation, and the Vietnam War.

So it would only make sense if an upcoming film version of Battlestar Galactica were also deeply political. And with the Bush years in the rearview, Hollywood has frequently (almost relentlessly) turned to drone warfare as a go-to subject for big-budget political critique in the Obama era.

Here are a few examples of drones in big Hollywood fare released in the past year or so:

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is about "civil liberties issues, drone strikes, the president's kill list, [and] preemptive technology," according to its directors.

2. RoboCop (2014), which features autonomous killer robots called "drones" that are prominently used in an American invasion and occupation of Iran ("Operation Freedom Tehran," it's called). OmniCorp, which designs and manufactures these military robots, wants to put this technology to use in law enforcement in the United States. Thus kicks off a national debate on civil liberties and so forth.

3. G.I. Joe: Retaliation, in which the democratic President of the United States is a foreign-born imposter who uses killer drones on American citizens overseas, and desires a world rid of nuclear weapons. (REMIND YOU OF ANYONE???)

4. Pacific Rim, which has drones in the form of gargantuan robots called Jaegers (the robots fight amphibious monsters called Kaiju).

5. Iron Man 3, which fits in snugly with the rest of the Iron Man franchise drone imagery.

6. Star Trek Into Darkness, which covers the ethical question of extrajudicial and targeted killing of terror suspects operating outside American borders.

(And it appears this drone warfare movie is in the works, too.)

This seems like it's on the verge of being played out. If Jack Paglen is looking for something fresher to weave into his script, maybe he can go with US special operations in Africa.

Fox News Confuses NAACP and NCAA 2 Days After SNL Joked About It

| Tue Apr. 8, 2014 12:25 PM EDT

On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends First host Heather Childers referred to the UConn Huskies as "NAACP national champs." This is funny, because what she meant was "NCAA national champs." The NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which, among other things, mounted anti-lynching campaigns in the United States. The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which didn't.

So we all had a brief chuckle at Childers' expense, and were ready to move on—until we noticed that her on-air mix-up was predicted by a Saturday Night Live sketch that aired just last weekend.

In SNL's latest lampooning of Fox & Friends, the cohosts start by blasting the Obamacare enrollment numbers. "It's tough to sign up for things, I've tried for years to join the NAACP," Brian Kilmeade (played by Bobby Moynihan) says. "Brian, why would you do that?" Elisabeth Hasselbeck (Vanessa Bayer) responds. "Well, I just loved college basketball," Brian says.

The SNL writers room is full of time travelers. Watch the sketch here:

(H/t Ben Dimiero)

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