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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Gabby Giffords Kicks Off Her 7-State Background Checks Tour by Firing a Handgun

| Tue Jul. 2, 2013 11:08 AM EDT

On Monday, former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords began her seven-day, seven-state "Rights and Responsibilities Tour" at a firing range in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the first time Giffords has fired a gun since sustaining a gunshot wound to the head during a January 2011 assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona. (The shooting rampage, which occurred at a "Congress on Your Corner" event held in front of a Safeway, left six attendees dead and another thirteen wounded). Here's footage of Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly at the firing range (via ABC News):

Giffords and Kelly's "Rights and Responsibilites Tour"—which includes stops in Alaska, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Ohio—is part of an effort to revive and rally support for gun background checks legislation, which collapsed in the Senate in April. The opening event in Vegas fits with Giffords and Kelly's insistence that, while pushing for stricter gun measures, the two are proud gun owners and staunch supporters of the Second Amendment. "I'm a patriot who believes in [the] 2nd Amendment," Giffords writes in a USA Today op-ed this week. "My 7-state tour will promote common-sense action."

After Serenading a Dictator, Jennifer Lopez Won't Say If She'll Keep the Fee

| Mon Jul. 1, 2013 4:12 PM EDT

Gigli is no longer the most horrible thing J-Lo has ever done in her two-decade career.

Pop singer and actress Jennifer Lopez caused a stir over the weekend when news broke that she was appearing at the lavish birthday bash of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the 56-year-old president—and human-rights-quashing, personality-cult-driven dictator—of Turkmenistan. The party was thrown at a Caspian Sea resort in the oil-rich Central Asian country on Saturday night. Lopez is reportedly the first big-time Western celebrity to visit Turkmenistan, and she performed at the event, singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" before a gathering of business executives and government officials.

She of course was paid for the performance, but her publicist, Shoshanna Stone of Edge Publicity, declined to divulge much she pocketed for serenading Berdymukhamedov. With human rights activists decrying her appearance at the party and many people calling for Lopez to return the cash or donate it to an outfit that opposes repression in Turkmenistan, Stone would not say whether J-Lo—who is worth a quarter of a billion dollars—is considering such a move.

Here is video of the gig. There are some amazing fireworks at the end.

The event was hosted by the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), a state-owned Chinese oil and gas company based in Dongcheng District in Beijing that has seen its fair share of accidents and controversies. (CNPC did not respond to Mother Jones' multiple requests for comment.)

"White House Down": A Harsh Critique of The Military-Industrial Complex, Starring Sweaty Channing Tatum

| Fri Jun. 28, 2013 3:35 PM EDT

Anti-imperialist politics at its finest.

White House Down
Columbia Pictures
129 minutes

"Ever heard of the military-industrial complex???" President James Sawyer (played by Jamie Foxx) asks his gun-toting protector John Cale (Channing Tatum), as the two hide in a White House elevator shaft. President Sawyer is explaining to Cale why he believes armed right-wingers have invaded and occupied the White House and begun frightening tourists and shooting government officials.

In the past few months, there's been an emerging cinematic trend of destroying the White House. Just as 1998 saw the wide release of both Armageddon and Deep Impact, this year features the release of not one but two Hollywood action movies about terrorists miraculously overrunning the White House. In Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler (released in March), a band of North Korean fanatics take over the West Wing—with the help of a Secret Service agent who betrays America because he's fed up with globalization and Wall Street. In White House Down (released on Friday), it's white, American-born, ultra-conservative lunatics—who do so with the help of a Secret Service agent who betrays America because President Sawyer isn't being militaristic enough.

The script, penned by James Vanderbilt, is one enormous pander to the most naïve impulses of your average dime-store liberal.

The film is directed by Roland Emmerich, whose sole purpose as a filmmaker is demolishing the White House, whenever he isn't spreading scandalously awful lies about William Shakespeare. WHD is a mixed bag of B-movie pluses and minuses. There are moments when the dialogue is so laughably terrible and the bullet-riddled situations so wildly absurd that the scenes succeed on the merits of "so-bad-it's-good." But those moments are too often negated by tedious, sloppily choreographed action, and generic plot points designed to be taken way more seriously than they have any right to be. Emmerich's unwillingness to commit to a delightfully trashy tone makes for an uneven action-comedy experience at best.

And the script, penned by James Vanderbilt, is one enormous pander to the most naïve impulses of your average dime-store liberal. The president's agenda is defined by making peace with all the Arab, Muslim, and Persian world. After forging friendly relations with Iran's new reformist leader, President Sawyer (most definitely a Democrat) announces in a legacy-defining speech the Sawyer Doctrine—which includes the withdrawal of every single American soldier stationed in the Middle East. He sets out to convince practically every country on the planet to sign a new peace treaty, and vows to take on the US' out-of-control, conflict-hungry defense industry and its lapdogs in Congress.

War veteran and wannabe Secret Service agent Cale admires the president's vision. But far-right gunmen who want to wage nuclear war against Iran do not, so they conquer the White House and start killing scores of innocents. Audiences might also notice that one of the deranged right-wing insurgents is a huge fan of a cable news network that's clearly a stand-in for Fox News. As the henchmen round up the hostages, the American terrorist spots the network's White House correspondent, played by an actor who physically resembles Fox's Ed Henry. The terrorist proceeds to gush about how much he loves their Sawyer-bashing coverage, and how Ed-Henry-look-alike is basically the only truth-teller in the media.

Not to spoil the entire movie, but (spoiler alert) Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, and the liberals win the day, and the hawkish, Fox News-adoring, reactionary killers wind up either in jail or ripped to shreds by explosives and ammunition. It's typical Hollywood liberalism with gigantic firearms.

Now here's one of WHD's trailers, which makes the movie look far better—and much more dramatic—than it is:

White House Down gets a wide release on Friday, June 28. The film is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image. Click here for local showtimes and tickets.

Click here for more movie and TV coverage from Mother Jones.

To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To listen to the movie and pop-culture podcast that Asawin cohosts with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg, click here.

The New Right-Wing "ObamaCars" Conspiracy Theory Is Heinously Dumb

| Wed Jun. 26, 2013 5:11 PM EDT
An actual Obama car.

A new rumor is making the rounds—first on Breitbart, then Fox News and beyond—that the Senate's immigration reform bill contains a provision that could provide free, taxpayer-subsidized cars, scooters, motorcycles, Segways, hovercraft, and god knows what to young Americans. The supposed nationwide government-sponsored "ObamaCar" giveaway would happen during a 15-month period following passage of the legislation. America will grow weaker and poorer; our enemies, foreign and domestic, will be emboldened.

I've reached out to the White House for comment on the existence of the government's top-secret car-gifting plot, but have not yet received a response. Instead of allowing the Obama administration's silence to fuel any suspicions you may have about the Far-Reaching ObamaCar Conspiracy, here's a fleck of reassurance: There is absolutely nothing to this allegation. At all. You can add it to the long list of explosively wrong and heinously dumb conservative memes that have cropped up in the Obama era.

"An amendment by [Sen. Bernie] Sanders to the immigration bill would provide a youth jobs program that includes the possibility of transportation and child care services," PolitiFact notes. "That prompted conservative news outlets to make claims such as, 'New Immigration bill has taxpayer subsidized Obamacars for youths'...There is no proof to support the idea that the program would include free car, motorcycle or scooter giveaways. In fact, that such a process would end up allowing car giveaways seems laughable."

And if PolitiFact's thorough takedown doesn't convince you, here's a fact-check courtesy of the office of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)—a man who isn't exactly known for leaping to President Obama's defense:

MYTH: The new Hoeven-Corker Amendment creates a special program with taxpayer money to give free cars, motorcycles, or scooters to young people 15 months after the bill passes.

[...]

FACT: There are absolutely no cars, motorcycles, or scooters for young Americans in the immigration bill, and no taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the new jobs program for American youth.

So there you have it. If you buy the vehicle-giveaway story, you might as well believe that Marco Rubio chows down on $16 muffins while using his very own Obamaphone to mass-text Friends of Hamas while driving his brand new ObamaCar to work.

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