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.

Full Bio | Get my RSS |

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.

Jimmy Fallon Makes Sex Jokes With Mitt Romney As They "Slow Jam the News"

| Sat Jan. 25, 2014 9:54 AM PST

On Friday, Mitt Romney joined Jimmy Fallon and the Roots on NBC's Late Night to "slow jam the news." The main topic of the segment was President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address. Highlights include Fallon making a 47 percent quip, a once-you-go-black-you-never-go-back joke (regarding Romney's loss to President Obama in the 2012 election), and other sex jokes, all while Romney sat behind him.

Watch here:

"President Obama looked the American people up and down and said, 'I'd tap that,'" Fallon says, on the subject of NSA surveillance.

Fallon and the Roots have previously slow-jammed the news with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Obama (Breitbart.com even accused NBC of violating campaign finance law by having the president on to slow-jam the news, a claim that was of course nonsense). Romney's appearance on Friday answers CBS News' nearly two-year-old question, "Will we ever see...Mitt Romney follow in President Obama's footsteps and slow jam the news?"

Advertise on MotherJones.com

T Bone Burnett on How He Chooses Music For "True Detective"

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 4:59 PM PST

True Detective, a dark new anthology series that premiered on HBO earlier this month, has been greeted with wide critical praise. "True Detective could be the next Breaking Bad," gushed The New Republic. The philosophical drama (written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga) stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Louisiana homicide detectives Rustin Cohle and Martin Hart, respectively. The show follows their hunt for a serial killer, as well as their struggles with inner demons and family.

The series' brooding atmosphere is framed by an expertly crafted soundtrack—some of the songs are haunting, some are bluesy, some are both. The music is selected by none other than T Bone Burnett, the Oscar-winning producer and musician.

"I have a long history with detective movies—almost as long as I have with rock 'n' roll," Burnett says. "I've always been interested in crime and true crime. If you listen to my records, like Criminal Under My Own Hat, you can feel it. I love Chandler and Hammett; I love detective movies."

T Bone Burnett
T Bone Burnett. Kulturvultur/Wikimedia Commons

Burnett's musical accomplishments are wide-ranging: He was musical director for Roy Orbison's fantastic 1988 black-and-white special and played guitar on the road with Bob Dylan, for instance. In recent years, Burnett has made an even bigger name for himself through his acclaimed work on movie soundtracks, from O Brother, Where Art Thou? to The Hunger Games.

When Burnett cracked open the 500-page script for True Detective's first season (each season tells a different story, with the initial one spanning eight episodes), he instantly fell in love with the characters and dialogue (which he calls "some of the best tough-guy dialogue I've ever heard"). More than that, he felt an artistic connection to the material.

"It was like reading a good novel," Burnett says. "Right from the very beginning, when I read the description of a burnt-out field, I thought of the cover of my album Tooth of Crime, and said to myself, 'This guy's been tapping my phone!'"

Burnett's affection for the series comes through in his song selection, which plays like a sinister blues and gospel party mix. When he began working on this project, he and Pizzolatto both agreed that there should be an unofficial policy to veer the soundtrack away from Louisiana swamp blues and Cajun music because "it's already been done so much," Burnett says. The soundtrack includes tracks like "Bring It to Jerome" by Bo Diddley, "Clear Spot" by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, "Stand By Me" by The Staple Singers, and "Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)" by Grinderman. "It's like scoring an eight-hour movie," Burnett says.

John Boehner: I'd Rather Smoke and Drink Red Wine Than Be President

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 10:23 AM PST

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stopped by NBC's The Tonight Show to chat with host and reviled coup d'état leader Jay Leno. They discussed Chris Christie, Edward Snowden, Boehner's occasional role as House "Gestapo," and the GOP-led government shutdown. ("So I said, 'You wanna fight this fight, I'll go fight the fight with you.' But it was a very predictable disaster. And so the sooner we got it over with, the better.")

But the most interesting quote Boehner had to offer Leno's audience was fluffier in nature. It came when the comedian asked the politician if he had any plans to run for president. His response:

I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass. I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes and I'm not giving that up to be President of the United States.

Boehner definitely enjoys his red wine and cigarettes (two things you are allowed to consume as commander in chief, but whatever). President Obama gifted Boehner a $110 bottle of Tuscan red wine for his 63rd birthday, and Boehner received positive coverage from The Daily Beast for bringing the "booze back to Washington." Boehner is a Camel Ultra Lights smoker, and prior to the smoking ban in the Speaker's Lobby, he took smoking breaks there so frequently that one of the benches was dubbed the "Boehner bench."

You can watch longer clips of his Tonight Show interview here.

Here's Why You Don't See Romney Reacting to the 47 Percent Video in "Mitt"

| Wed Jan. 22, 2014 2:37 PM PST

"I think I'm a flawed candidate," says Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, in director Greg Whiteley's behind-the-scenes documentary Mitt, which premieres on Netflix on Friday. The film, which spans six years and two Romney presidential runs, offers some intimate moments of the Romney family on the campaign trail. We get to see Mitt privately acknowledging that his image was boiled down to "the flippin' Mormon," the family playing in the snow, Ann Romney talking about her horse, and Mitt ironing his tux sleeve while wearing it.

But if you're looking for a more thorough political history of the 2012 campaign and the GOP candidate, you'll notice (as we previously pointed out here) a few things missing: Bain outsourcing jobs, self-deportation, Romneycare, Obamacare, the decision to pick Paul Ryan as running mate, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," Afghanistan, Iraq, varmint-shooting, cheesy grits, abortion, China, "binders full of women," Benghazi, "corporations are people, my friend," and a whole lot more.

Furthermore, Whiteley's film doesn't include any scenes revealing how Romney and his team processed the release of the 47 percent video—news that came to reinforce Romney's political persona. The reason? Limited access—and, according to Whiteley, the fact that the goal in making the movie wasn't to please political junkies.

Major Democratic Fundraiser Katy Perry Vows To Ask Obama About Potential Alien Invaders

| Tue Jan. 21, 2014 11:55 AM PST

For its new cover story, GQ magazine has a wide-ranging interview with Democratic fundraiser/pop star Katy Perry, in which the 29-year-old singer chats about her relationship with the president of the United States—and what she's eager to ask him about. It has to do with space aliens (naturally):

I believe in a lot of astrology. I believe in aliens. I look up into the stars and I imagine: How self-important are we to think that we are the only life-form? I mean, if my relationship with Obama gets any better, I'm going to ask him that question. It just hasn't been appropriate yet.

(Regarding her relationship with President Obama, she jokes that she "might have won Wisconsin for him." Even though she was kidding, The Wire provided a chart-filled debunking of her "claim.")

Who knows if or when Perry will be able to ask the president about aliens. But in the meantime, it might help her to know that the Obama administration already addressed this more than two years ago. Here's their answer, written by Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:

The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet...However, that doesn't mean the subject of life outside our planet isn't being discussed or explored. In fact, there are a number of projects working toward the goal of understanding if life can or does exist off Earth...Many scientists and mathematicians have looked with a statistical mindset at the question of whether life likely exists beyond Earth and have come to the conclusion that the odds are pretty high that somewhere among the trillions and trillions of stars in the universe there is a planet other than ours that is home to life.

Many have also noted, however, that the odds of us making contact with any of them—especially any intelligent ones—are extremely small, given the distances involved.

So there it is.

Perry, whose interest in politics and humanitarian aid goes far beyond her friendly relationship with the president (she traveled with UNICEF to visit slums and villages in Madagascar last year, for example), is a fiercely liberal person. She even barred her Republican parents from attending a 2013 Obama inauguration concert at which she performed. "My parents are Republicans, and I'm not," she told Marie Claire. "They didn't vote for Obama, but when I was asked to sing at the inauguration, they were like, 'We can come.' And I was like, 'No, you can't. I love you so much, but that—on principle.' They understood, but I was like, 'How dare you?' in a way."

Here's video of Perry performing at an Obama 2012 rally in Las Vegas. Her dress makes her political preference clear:

Thu Apr. 17, 2014 3:00 AM PDT
Fri Feb. 28, 2014 4:00 AM PST
Fri Feb. 7, 2014 5:39 PM PST
Fri Feb. 7, 2014 10:22 AM PST