Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng


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

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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 His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

Jack Abramoff Explains Why His Planned Remake of Jerry Lewis' Holocaust Clown Film Failed

| Tue Aug. 13, 2013 2:55 PM EDT

In 1972, comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis made The Day the Clown Cried, an infamous and supremely embarrassing pop-culture fixation that Lewis has kept hidden in a vault for the last four decades. The dramatic film stars Lewis as Helmut Doork, an unemployed circus clown who ends up entertaining children before shepherding them into a Nazi gas chamber.

Only a handful of people in the world have seen this colossal cinematic train wreck. "[S]eeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object," actor and humorist Harry Shearer famously told Spy magazine in 1992. "This was a perfect object. This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. 'Oh, My God!'—that's all you can say."

Well, over the weekend, additional behind-scenes-footage of the Nazi death camp clown movie leaked online. (Other footage had leaked years ago.) And if you thought this story couldn't get any weirder, guess who was backing an aborted remake of the film in the early '90s? Jack Abramoff, the former Republican mega-lobbyist and convicted felon whose name became synonymous with bribery, Washington corruption, and ripping off American Indian tribes.

"What drew me to the project was the power of the story and the humanity of the narrative," Abramoff tells Mother Jones. "I did not know, at first, about the Lewis involvement. I was shown the script and fell in love with it."

As writer and film obsessive Lawrence Levi noted in 2006, one of the letters sent in support of Abramoff to US District Judge Paul Huck in Miami (the judge who sentenced Abramoff to nearly six years in prison for fraud) includes a paragraph regarding Abramoff's involvement in the failed film project. Here's the relevant section, via Harper's:

Jack made every effort possible to secure funding for a film entitled The Day the Clown Cried, a movie about the importance of taking care of children, set in a WWII concentration camp.

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A One-Word Review of Disney's "Planes"

| Fri Aug. 9, 2013 6:18 PM EDT




"Elysium": Matt Damon Shoots His Way to Universal Health Care

| Fri Aug. 9, 2013 6:00 AM EDT


TriStar Pictures
109 minutes

"Elysium doesn't have a message," Neill Blomkamp, the film's writer/director, told Wired recently. The South African-Canadian filmmaker (famous for Academy Award Best Picture nominee District 9) also discussed how he wasn't a fan of people drawing parallels between the Occupy movement and his new movie.

"It's not just hypocritical to say this movie isn't political, it's hilarious," Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center told Fox News in response. "This is just the latest of several Hollywood movies this year to try and co-opt Occupy Wall Street plotlines into their films." Other right-leaning observers have voiced similar sentiments. Big Hollywood,'s pop-culture wing, has been rooting for the film to fail. Newsmax has dubbed the film, "Matt Damon's Sci-Fi Socialism" and "heavy-handed political propaganda."

Some of the conservative hate directed at Elysium's political content, real and imagined, is (as you can guess) a bit much. However, it's odd that Blomkamp would claim his film does not have a "message." His sci-fi action flick is explicitly and pervasively political. It gets its two cents in on global poverty, immigration, access to health care, and social mobility, all the while affording Matt Damon plenty of room to maim and explode bad guys.

Stephen Colbert Dances With Henry Kissinger

| Wed Aug. 7, 2013 4:02 PM EDT

Stephen Colbert—Comedy Central host, ex-presidential candidate, and fierce critic of President Obama's targeted killing policy—was recently snubbed by Daft Punk. The French electro-pop duo was supposed to perform on The Colbert Report for "StePhest Colbchella '013," but was forced to cancel due to contractual obligations with Comedy Central's sister network MTV.

So on Tuesday's show, Colbert spent much of the program taking lighthearted swipes at the electronic music stars and debuted a comedic dance-party clip set to Daft Punk's hit song "Get Lucky." In the video, Colbert gleefully dances with Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Laurie, and... Henry Kissinger:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

At the 2:44 mark, Colbert enters Kissinger's office and proceeds to groove around his desk. Kissinger's segment ends with the former secretary of state and national security advisor picking up the phone and calmly calling "security" on the dancing comedian.

The video is, of course, all in good fun, and many American political figures (some of whom have appeared on The Colbert Report) are criticized for US foreign policy decisions. But Kissinger's reputation is unique, and now is a good time to revisit why. Here are just some of the reasons why Colbert and Co. should have thought twice before making Kissinger seem like an aging teddy bear in a five-minute dance video:

Various human rights groups and journalists, including Amnesty International and the late Christopher Hitchens, have highlighted Henry Kissinger's alleged complicity in major human rights violations and war crimes around the globe, in Chile (murder and subversion of democracy), Bangladesh (genocide), and East Timor (yet more genocide), to name a few. Perhaps his most notorious alleged act was taking part in the sabotage—on behalf of the Nixon presidential campaign—of the 1968 Vietnam War peace talks (secret diplomacy that quite possibly constituted a violation of the Logan Act). Subsequently, the Vietnam War was prolonged well into the Nixon years, allowing the US ample opportunity to do things like carpet-bomb eastern Cambodia.

Kissinger's lesser offenses include venting about "self-serving" Jewish "bastards" who were trying to escape persecution and cultural eradication in the Soviet Union. (Kissinger is Jewish, and his family fled from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.)

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning statesman has previously appeared on The Colbert Report, including in this clip with Eliot Spitzer and guitarist Peter Frampton. Comedy Central did not respond to a request for comment regarding Kissinger's multiple appearances, and Colbert's personal publicist could not be reached for comment. I will update this post if that changes.

Dead People Have Donated Nearly $600K to Campaigns Since 2009

| Tue Aug. 6, 2013 11:56 AM EDT

Yes, dead people contribute to political campaigns. No, they're not zombies. USA Today reports:

The dead can't vote, but they can give money to politicians.

Thirty-two people listed on federal campaign records as "deceased" have contributed more than $586,000 to congressional and presidential candidates and political parties since Jan. 1, 2009.

This isn't a scandal or weird error. Federal campaign rules allow Americans to make political candidates or committees the beneficiaries of their estates. (Dead people can also leave their money to charities, for instance.) According to the USA Today analysis of FEC filings, 32 dead people contributed the nearly $600,000 to presidential and congressional candidates and committees. The Democratic National Committee received $245,176 of the zombie cash, $163,200 went to the Libertarian Party, $96,329 went to the Green Party, $31,203 went to the Obama Victory Fund, and $25,000 went to the National Committee for an Effective Congress.

Currently, there is a case pending before a federal appellate court in Washington, DC, that seeks to overturn limits on political contributions from dead donors. (Limits on contributions are supposed to help curb political corruption, whether the money comes from breathing person or a deceased individual's estate.) The case involves a man who left more than $217,000 to the Libertarian National Committee in 2007. "A dead person can't corrupt someone," Alan Gura, attorney for the Libertarian Party, argued. The fight over zombie campaign cash continues.

h/t Political Wire

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