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.

House Republicans Defund the Nonexistent ACORN, Yet Again

| Tue Jul. 30, 2013 11:49 AM EDT

Unkillable?

In the Friday the 13th film series, psycho killer Jason Voorhees lumbers around destroying lives with his machete. He is seemingly indestructible, reanimating even though he dies at the end of almost every movie in which he appears. The sexy teens (the flawed protagonists of this horror-flick franchise) are thus charged with brutally killing Jason again and again, time after time, no matter what.

That's how House Republicans view ACORN, the defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (a longtime boogeyman for the right). It's Jason, and John Boehner is a sexy teen. For years, conservatives accused the defunct organization of a fictional large-scale voter fraud plot. In actuality, ACORN was a New Orleans-based nonprofit that advocated for low-income families on issues such as predatory lending and public education.

The Huffington Post reports:

The House GOP quietly blocked funding for ACORN last week, even though the anti-poverty organization has long since been both defunded and disbanded.

The legislative assault on ACORN, which shut down in 2010, was included in a Department of Defense appropriations bill that cleared the House on Thursday...Section 8097 of the bill reads, "None of the funds made available under this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries."

[...]

[T]he House GOP votes to defund ACORN all the time. Nearly every bill that clears the House Appropriations Committee includes a section barring the use of funds for ACORN, although the specific language varies among different bills.

ACORN, which was dissolved in 2010, could not be reached for comment.

After the 2012 presidential election, Public Policy Polling found that 49 percent of Republicans believed that ACORN had stolen the election for Barack Obama, a drop from 52 percent who believed ACORN had stolen the 2008 election for Obama. "This is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn't exist anymore," PPP determined. Nearly eight months after that poll was released, ACORN still does not exist.

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The Most Damning Part of That Reza Aslan Fox News Interview You've Been Hearing About

| Sun Jul. 28, 2013 7:37 PM EDT

On Friday, author and religious scholar Reza Aslan appeared on Fox News. The interview has been getting some attention over the weekend, and it isn't hard to understand why once you start watching it. The whole thing is worth a look:

Aslan is promoting his recently released nonfiction book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which examines Jesus Christ's legacy as a political insurgent. The book has generated some controversy and accusations of faith-based bias.

There are a lot of things wrong with the 10-minute FoxNews.com Live interview (conducted by Fox religion correspondent Lauren Green), none of which are perpetrated by Aslan. But the most damning part is toward the end, when Green says the following after several minutes of implying that Aslan's own religious beliefs compromise the objectivity of his work:

I believe that you've been on several programs and have never disclosed that you were a Muslim.

(And in the interest of "full disclosure"—a term Green uses to justify her supposed outing of Aslan as a covert Muslim—I have interviewed Aslan on the subject of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, a man Aslan said belonged "in an insane asylum." I failed to disclose in that blog post that Aslan is a Muslim; I did, however, note that he is of Iranian descent. Mother Jones has also chatted with Aslan here.)

Obama Says Ho Chi Minh Was Inspired by Founding Fathers, Conservatives Freak Out

| Fri Jul. 26, 2013 4:22 PM EDT
Official White House portrait.

After a meeting with Vietnam's president Truong Tan Sang on Thursday, President Barack Obama said the following to reporters (emphasis mine):

At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. Ho Chi Minh talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States. And President Sang indicated that even if it's 67 years later, it's good that we're still making progress.

(Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese communist and nationalist revolutionary leader who died in 1969. He fought alongside Allied forces during World War II, but fought American forces during the Vietnam War.)

Some conservatives have chosen to freak out about that second sentence. For instance, here's former tea party congressman Allen West:

Several conservative media outlets blasted the president on similar terms. "Obama may have just been trying to flatter his guest who was obviously eager to show that Ho was not the monster history shows him to be," Chris Stirewalt, digital politics editor for Fox News wrote. "But his connection between the American founders and Ho shows either a massive lack of historical knowledge on the part of the president or a remarkable degree of moral flexibility." (The Drudge Report quickly picked up the Fox piece.) The headline at Breitbart.com read, "Obama Praises Communist Dictator & American Enemy Ho Chi Minh." And so on and so forth.

Yes, it is true that the United States once waged a disastrous, pointless, and horrific war against Ho Chi Minh and the people of Vietnam. But Obama's comment wasn't a gaffe or insult to American war vets, as much as someone like Allen West would like it to be. What Obama said is literally a historical fact. In September 1945, Ho Chi Minh delivered the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi to a crowd of nearly a million Vietnamese. Not only was the "The Star-Spangled Banner" played by a Vietnamese band during his address, but he opens his speech by quoting Thomas Jefferson. Here's the excerpt:

"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness"

This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

So there you go. Anyone with the capacity to Google "ho chi minh thomas jefferson" would have been able to find all of this in seconds. Wait until Allen West and right-leaning editorialists discover that Karl Marx was a supporter of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Or that Margaret Thatcher supported the ultra-Maoist, genocidal Khmer Rouge in the 1980s.

Historical irony, man.

US Government Promises Not to Torture or Execute Edward Snowden

| Fri Jul. 26, 2013 12:37 PM EDT

Via the New York Times on Friday:

U.S. Tells Russia It Won't Torture or Kill Snowden

Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to Russia's minister of justice assuring him that the United States government would not seek the death penalty against the former NSA contractor, and that the US would not torture him. (Snowden faces criminal charges back home and has been hiding out in a Moscow airport.) Theoretically, the US Constitution should on its own be enough of a reassurance that American officials won't torture someone. It hasn't always worked out that way in recent years.

Funny or Die Is Making Pro-Obamacare Videos

| Fri Jul. 26, 2013 6:05 AM EDT

On Monday, a cluster of Hollywood celebrities gathered at the White House for a chat on how they could help spread the word about Obamacare to young people in America. In attendance—along with some producers and writers—were big-name entertainers such as Amy Poehler, Jennifer Hudson, Michael Cera, and Kal Penn. (Penn served multiple stints as associate director for the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration, and delivered this speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.)

The meeting was run by senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who gave a presentation on health care reform and talked about pushing back against conservative memes surrounding the law. President Obama dropped in for roughly half an hour to mingle and hear some ideas from the attending celebrities and artists. Mike Farah, president of production and "ambassador of lifestyle" at Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's comedy website Funny or Die, was at the meeting with his colleague Jake Szymanski. "It was awesome," Farah tells Mother Jones. "It kind of kicked ass…I was honored to be there and to hear from Obama directly."

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