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.

Gay Mayor of Vicco, Kentucky, Reacts to the "Best Segment of 'The Colbert Report' Ever"

| Fri Aug. 16, 2013 4:20 PM EDT

It's being called the greatest segment The Colbert Report has ever done.

On Wednesday night, the Comedy Central news-satire program aired the latest installment in its "People Who Are Destroying America" series. The segment is on Johnny Cummings, the openly gay mayor—and a part-time hairdresser—of Vicco, Kentucky, a hamlet of about 330 people. Vicco made news earlier this year when it became the smallest town in the United States to pass a ban on discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. (The ordinance passed by a 3-1 city-commission vote. According to Cummings, who introduced the ordinance to the city council, representatives from five other towns told him that they want to be the next ones to pass such a "fairness ordinance.")

"Everything considered, I was remarkably pleased with the way [the Colbert segment] turned out," Cummings tells Mother Jones.

"Russia's not the only place trying to defend its family values," host Stephen Colbert says, referring to the culture war over America's traditional "small-town morals," as he introduces the clip. What follows is a touching, funny, and stereotype-pulverizing look at a tiny Appalachian town and how its residents feel about the anti-discrimination policy and their mayor. Watch it here:

"If God makes 'em born gay, then why is he against it?" a Vicco resident says, 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."

The night after the segment aired, Cummings told Mother Jones about why he agreed to do it. "We got a lot of attention after that New York Times article ran [in January], and we got these offers from production companies wanting to do all this crap," Cummings recalls. The "crap" here refers to how five production companies, including that of ABC, have recently shown interest in filming a reality TV show in Vicco. "So when some of them called, I was often quite rude to them…But then I got a call from [The Colbert Report]. I always watch The Colbert Report…To get your point across, sometimes you just gotta laugh. That's how I look at it. So I thought, okay, The Colbert Report would be perfect."

The Comedy Central film crew came to town to shoot footage last February. The show also featured a pastor named Truman Hurt, the lone voice in the segment raising objections to the so-called gay lifestyle. The pastor's objections, as well as local confusion over the legal specifics of the ordinance, were framed by some media outlets (such as MSNBC's Maddow Blog) as a backlash and controversy. In Cummings' view, no backlash actually occurred, and the town has been overwhelmingly supportive. "The only negative response we really got was the local TV station that played it up…and tried to cover it as 'backlash,'" Cummings says. "If you check out my Facebook page, there's not a negative thing on there about this. But some people tried to create a 'backlash,' I guess."

The 50-year-old Cummings has been praised by residents and others for leading efforts to revitalize the Kentucky town's infrastructure. Cummings is a Democrat (as is the majority of Vicco's population) but has switched between Republican and Democratic party affiliation. Aside from his mayorship and his gig as a local hairdresser, he plays the blues on his saxophone in his spare time. He is also a big fan of Josephine Baker, the jazz singer and political activist who helped the French Resistance fight the Nazis.

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How the Newtown School Shooting Altered the Marketing and Publicity for "Kick-Ass 2"

| Fri Aug. 16, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

Jim Carrey.

Kick-Ass 2
Universal Pictures
103 minutes

Following the December massacre in Newtown, Connecticut—in which 20 schoolchildren were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary—there were a lot of well-intentioned but shallow efforts by the entertainment industry to strike a chord of sensitivity. As everybody knows, violent movies mean big bucks for major movie studios. But in the wake of widely publicized tragedies, Hollywood stars and executives generally don't want to be seen as callous.

After Newtown, the LA premiere of Quentin Tarantino's brutally violent Django Unchained was canceled, and Django star Jamie Foxx even cautioned against gratuitous violence in cinema. On television, the debut of reality TV special Best Funeral Ever was postponed, and Ted Nugent's celebration of gun culture was nixed from the Discovery Channel. And on commercial radio, Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and Ke$ha's "Die Young" received substantially reduced airplay, due to lyrics involving children and death. It's the standard outpouring of PR gestures, however meaningless they turn out to be.

One entertainer, however, took things further than a simple one-off gesture. Actor Jim Carrey saw this as his cue to wage an offensive on gun culture in America. In February, Carrey tweeted that anyone "who would run out to buy an assault rifle after the Newtown massacre has very little left in their body or soul worth protecting." In March, he starred in a somewhat controversial Funny or Die music video that was harshly critical of gun owners and actor and NRA president Charlton Heston. He remained vocal on the matter, and in June he announced that he would not be promoting his next movie: the bullets-and-blood-filled superhero movie Kick-Ass 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed 2010 Kick-Ass. "I did Kickass a month [before] Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence," the actor wrote. "[M]y apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart."

In the film, Carrey plays Colonel Stars and Stripes, a former mob enforcer who became a born-again Christian/tough-as-nails vigilante hero. "Family living in the street deserves a hot meal; inebriated college girl deserves to make it home safe at night," the Colonel tells his crew of superheroes, reminding them why they do what they do. Although the Colonel enacts brutal justice against human traffickers and murderers, he maintains a personal policy of not firing guns. (That fact was actually one of the things that initially intrigued Carrey about the role.) 

But yes, the movie is very violent, and those offended by gratuitous cop-killing will probably get turned off by the film's gratuitous cop-killing.

Fox News Is Now Dangerous Pro-Gay Propaganda, Says Conservative Group

| Thu Aug. 15, 2013 11:57 AM EDT

Gay?

Oh, sweet Jesus.

America's Survival, Inc. (a fringe right-wing "public policy organization" that operates this lunatic-conspiracy website) has a new report out. It's 92 pages long (PDF) and was written by the president of a group called Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. It opens by stating that Fox News host Megyn Kelly is the "new hero to the 'gay' lobby" and goes on to demonstrate how and why the right-leaning cable network is increasingly in the pocket of morally corrosive gay activism.

Here is an excerpt from the accompanying press release titled, "Fox News Goes Gay":

"Pushing Sean Hannity out of the 9:00 p.m. slot, to make way for pro-homosexual advocate Megyn Kelly, is another sign of the channel's left-ward drift and decline," said ASI President Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic.

[...]

The 40,000-word report...examines how journalism today, even at Fox News, "has become pro-homosexual propaganda, with many media stories appearing as if they were written by LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) activists." Like other major media, the report notes, Fox News through its parent company, News Corporation, is a long-time funder of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).

On August 20, Kincaid is scheduled to give a related PowerPoint presentation at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. He will talk about why conservatives should stop watching Fox News because of the conspicuous gay and lesbian pandering. (In the interest of full disclosure, ASI has also attacked Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief David Corn, stating that he had won a "Soviet Agent Award.")

I reached out to Fox News media relations, as well as a couple Fox News employees I know, to ask about the network's supposed newfound gayness. "Well, this is an editorial decision I certainly haven't been made aware of, yet," one reporter responded. I will update this post if a Fox spokesperson gets back to me about their alleged pro-homosexual evangelizing.

POSTSCRIPT: Fox News has not in the least bit "gone gay." Hell, it's rarely even friendly to gay Americans. Conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Sandy Rios has her platform to talk about why Christianity is so great and gay sex is so awful. Ann Coulter frequently goes on the network and says her Ann Coulter-y things, all the while being treated like a folk hero. Fox News radio host Todd Starnes loves discussing how gay marriage is ruining god and democracy, almost as much as he enjoys mocking President Obama for being a covert homosexual. Bill O'Reilly has made the link between same-sex marriage and dudes marrying small turtles and other animals. And the list goes on and on.

But for some people, none of this is "pro-family" enough.

GOP Senate Candidate Calls Marxist Revolutionary Che Guevara Her "Beacon," Is Fighting to Repeal Obamacare

| Thu Aug. 15, 2013 10:42 AM EDT

Last month, in front of a crowd of roughly 30 friends and supporters, Dr. Annette Bosworth announced her candidacy for US Senate at her family farm in Plankinton, South Dakota. Like many Republican Senate and House candidates, she is passionate about tax policy. "Never have a people been taxed as heavily as the American People and still called Free," Bosworth tweeted in July. Like so many Republicans, she has made the defunding and repeal of Obamacare her No. 1 issue. (She heads Meaningful Medicine, a private practice in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.)

But unlike most Republican candidates out there, Bosworth is apparently a fan of Argentine Marxist revolutionary leader Che Guevara.

Below is a photo from a Facebook post from October 2012 (recently flagged by a progressive South Dakota blog called the Madville Times) in which Bosworth sports a T-shirt bearing a "Che" signature. "Che Guavera- You are my beacon! Here is to making this next chapter of my life the adventure for my kids and my family," she writes.

Annette Bosworth Che Guevara

Following some critical comments on the photo post, Bosworth's husband Chad Haber responded by writing, "Nelson Mandela referred to him as 'an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom,'" and reminded Facebook users that she is very much a Republican. "Say what you want about 'Che.' My wife looks hot in that shirt!" Haber also stated.

Still, it's difficult to tell what the 41-year-old Bosworth admires in Guevara. He was, as she is, a trained doctor who had helped some people in need. He was also central—along with Fidel Castro—in bringing communist, pro-Soviet repression to Cuba. The long-deceased Guevara enjoys a mind-boggling, frequently hypocritical international cult of personality that brushes aside his trigger-happy and anti-liberal excesses. He famously condemned capitalism as "a contest among wolves." (Republicans love capitalism.)

Guevara was also really, really into the idea of government-run health care, which is what conservatives think Obamacare is. (It isn't.) Bosworth faces three better-known candidates in the primary: former Gov. Mike Rounds ("the Republican most likely to take over a Democratic Senate seat," writes Slate's Dave Weigel), state Senate Majority Whip Larry Rhoden, and state Rep. Stace Nelson. But if she were to win the primary and general election, she would join a caucus of Republican colleagues who have nothing but negative things to say about Guevara. I've reached out to Bosworth for comment on the cognitive dissonance, but haven't heard back.

Watch Werner Herzog's Devastating Documentary on Texting While Driving

| Tue Aug. 13, 2013 4:39 PM EDT

Here's something you should check out now, if you haven't already. "From One Second to the Next" is a 35-minute public service announcement sponsored by AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign, and directed by German filmmaker Werner Herzog (as in the internationally acclaimed and highly influential director of such films as Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Grizzly Man). It's a thoroughly effective and artfully crafted PSA that examines the easily preventable death toll caused by texting while driving.

Watch:

Screenings of the short documentary are being planned for over 40,000 high schools, as well as hundreds of government agencies and safety groups. "There’s a completely new culture out there," Herzog told The Canadian Press. "I'm not a participant of texting and driving—or texting at all—but I see there's something going on in civilization which is coming with great vehemence at us."

By some estimates, texting-while-driving causes thousands of deaths annually in the US, and states such as Connecticut and New York have passed new laws increasing fines and restrictions. Not too long ago, AT&T stopped lobbying against legislation aimed at cracking down on these types of driver distractions, and has since launched an awareness campaign. For instance, earlier this year, AT&T brought a street-driving simulator (aesthetically similar to what you'd find in a Chuck E. Cheese's) to Capitol Hill to show a bipartisan gathering of lawmakers the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

But PSAs can only go so far. State penalties for texting while driving range from a $20 fine up to a maximum $10,000 fine and a year in jail. Check out which states have the toughest or weakest laws here.

 

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