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.

World Leaders Flocked To Twitter in 2012

| Wed Jan. 2, 2013 3:44 PM PST
Muhammad Morsi, president of Egypt, is currently ranked as number 14 on the list of most-followed world leaders.

If you are interested in following Mohammed Magariaf, the new president of Libya, he is indeed on Twitter, with a Klout score in the low 50s. And joining him on the world's most gloriously addictive/time-sucking social media site is the majority of world leaders.

A new study (PDF) by The Digital Policy Council, the research arm of the consulting firm Digital Daya, finds that 123 of 164 countries (75 percent) now have a head of state who is tweeting (or perhaps has staff tweeting for them) from either a personal or government account. In 2011 DPC identified 69 actively tweeting heads of state. This 78-percent uptick is visualized in the chart below:

world leaders who tweet chart
Courtesy of DigitalDaya.com

Barack Obama is the most popular world leader on Twitter with 25 million followers—roughly 2.3 million fewer than Barbadian pop singer Rihanna, and 7 million fewer than Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar's Canadian archrival Justin Bieber.

It only makes sense that more heads of state and national governments are utilizing Twitter for PR and propaganda purposes. "Based on these growth rates, the Digital Policy Council anticipates penetration on Twitter for world leaders to be nearing 100% in 2013," the report states. "This would render Twitter as a de facto communication tool for all heads of state."

For instance, Muhammad Morsi, Egypt's new Islamist president, has been tweeting in Arabic to his now 850,000+ followers since late 2011 (he came in at No. 14 on DPC's list). The government of war-torn Somalia has found time to Tweet some (Somalia was ranked No. 101 with 765 followers, narrowly beating out Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the governments of Oman and Grenada). Hell, even the totalitarian regime of North Korea started Tweeting its anti-Seoul and anti-American propaganda—from the Pyongyang-based account @uriminzok—in 2010. (Not to be confused with @KimJongNumberUn, just to be clear.) North Korea did not qualify for DPC's study, but currently has close to 11,000 followers and, in case you're curious, follows these three accounts:

Here are the top five world leaders on Twitter, as ranked by DPC in December 2012:

1. Barack obama

President of the United States: 25 million followers

2. Hugo Chávez

President of Venezuela: 3.8 million followers

3. Abdullah Gül

President of Turkey: 2.6 million followers

4. Rania Al Abdullah

Queen of Jordan: 2.5 million followers

5. Dmitry Medvedev

(Former) President of Russia: 2.1 million followers

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What "Happy Feet Two" Star Matt Damon Taught Me About Fracking

| Fri Dec. 28, 2012 4:06 AM PST

And a fine singer to boot.

Promised Land
Focus Features
106 minutes

If Matt Damon & Co. really wanted to make a movie that would scare American audiences off of fracking for good, they should have just made a movie dramatizing fracking's potential threat to America's beer. Instead, what we get is a quaint love story wrapped in a conspiracy movie, draped in a toothless political polemic, festooned with mawkish aimlessness.

It didn't have to be this way. Promised Land's script was originally developed with Dave Eggers, the acclaimed, award-winning author. The film offers the considerable acting skills of Damon, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, John Krasinski, and Scoot McNairy. And, due to the hotly controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, the movie has had the honor of being slammed by the Heritage Foundation and petroleum lobbyists.

Promised Land is also directed by Gus Van Sant, a man who has a keen artist's eye for both mainstream fare and indie grit. (Yes, Van Sant and Damon are reunited, so beware of the lame and painfully obvious Good Will Fracking headlines.)

See? Nothing but good résumés and intriguing publicity behind this movie. And yet it putters out into both embarrassment and creative lethargy, fueled (if that's the term I want) by an acute lack of focus and commitment. Promised Land struggles to compel just as much as it fails to inform. By the film's end, Matt Damon will have taught you precisely two things about fracking: That it's bad for cows, and even worse for heartfelt dramatic monologues delivered by Matt Damon.

"Movie & An Argument" Podcast: Judd Apatow's "This Is 40" & Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 8:39 PM PST

On this week's episode of A Movie & An Argument, With Alyssa Rosenberg & Asawin Suebsaeng, we discuss (scroll down for audio):

  • This Is 40, Judd Apatow's "sort-of sequel" to 2007's Knocked Up, starring Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd.
  • Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti-western revenge flick, set in the pre-Civil War Deep South.

Listen:

Each week, I'll be sitting down to chat with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg (who also does killer work at The Atlantic and Slate's "Double X"). We'll talk, argue, and laugh about the latest movies, television shows, and pop-cultural nonsense—with some politics thrown in just for the hell of it.

Alyssa describes herself as being "equally devoted to the Star Wars expanded universe and Barbara Stanwyck, to Better Off Ted and Deadwood." I (everyone calls me Swin) am a devoted lover of low-brow dark humor, Yuengling, and movies with high body counts. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and tune in during the weeks to come.

We'll be featuring guests on the program, and also taking listeners' questions, so feel free to Tweet them at me here, and we'll see if we can get to them during a show.

Thank you for listening!

Click here for more movie and TV features from Mother Jones. To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To find more episodes of this podcast, click here.

To check out Alyssa's Bloggingheads show, click here.

Man Fires Assistant For Being Too Hot and "Irresistible," Iowa Court Says He's Within Legal Rights

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 4:41 PM PST

A warning to women and girls everywhere, via the AP:

A dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an "irresistible attraction," even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. Such firings may be unfair, but they are not unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.

An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.

[...]

Nelson, 32, worked for Knight for 10 years, and he considered her a stellar worker. But in the final months of her employment, he complained that her tight clothing was distracting, once telling her that if his pants were bulging that was a sign her clothes were too revealing, according to the opinion.

He also once allegedly remarked about her infrequent sex life by saying, "that's like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it."

[...]

Mansfield noted that Knight had an all-female workforce and Nelson was replaced by a woman...Knight is a very religious and moral individual, and he sincerely believed that firing Nelson would be best for all parties, [his attorney] said.

(Read the whole AP story, which is equal doses tragic and hysterical. Read the court's decision [PDF].)

Sadly, this nonsense isn't anything new. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals had previously upheld a business owner's right to fire an employee because the business owner's wife found her threatening. And a couple of years ago, a woman named Debrahlee Lorenzana sued a Citibank branch in Manhattan, alleging that her superiors canned her for looking too much like a supermodel.

Just to be clear, the lesson here is that if you are an accomplished, intelligent, diligent, and thoughtful female professional who's done absolutely nothing wrong, and you happen to look like this:

attractive woman
vgstudio/Shutterstock

...and you work for this:

...then this can legally happen to you:

fired woman
 Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock

This is the legal reality of fireable hotness in America today.

NRA Press Conference Riddled With Weirdly Outdated Cultural References

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 12:55 PM PST
"Natural Born Killers" (1994).

On Friday morning, National Rifle Association executive VP Wayne LaPierre—the guy who once accused the Clinton administration of tolerating gun violence in America so that Clinton could bolster the case for gun control legislation—held a press conference (finally) in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. LaPierre called on the government to pay for an armed police officer in every public school in America.

He also made a series of dated and often bizarre cultural references in large chunks of the speech. Here are some of the things he blamed for gun violence in our country:

Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here's one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?

Then there's the blood-soaked slasher films like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers that are aired like propaganda loops on "Splatterdays" and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it "entertainment." But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?

This all begs the question of what year LaPierre's speech was written.

Of all these specific references, Bulletstorm (2011) and Grand Theft Auto are the most recent—but the debate over the GTA video game series' content has been raging since 1997.

A rundown of why these references were so strange:

  • Bulletstorm was the center of an entirely Fox News-driven controversy. (The video game hasn't been the center of any other major controversy or crime, and the hysterical video-games-will-turn-you-into-a-rapist coverage by Fox probably helped sales.)
  • Mortal Kombat was first controversial when George H.W. Bush was president.
  • Splatterhouse—in which the gamer plays a dude named Terror Mask who fights demons in order to save his lover—was first released when Ronald Reagan was in office.
  • Kindergarten Killers is a pathetic and perverse internet cartoon game that virtually no one has ever heard of or played.
  • While there were widely publicized—and even academic—controversies surrounding both Bret Easton Ellis' novel (1991) and the film adaptation (2000), American Psycho isn't actually known for causing or inspiring murders.
  • The Oliver Stone hyper-violent satire Natural Born Killers is still fairly controversial, particularly for the copycat killings it has allegedly motivated. The film is somewhat of a relic of the mid-'90s.
  • "Splatterdays" refers to the Saturday night double-feature of horror movies that airs on The Movie Channel. Selected films often involve zombies and killers with large knives. "Splatterday" has been at the center of precisely zero controversies, in this country or any other.

So this is where the NRA is today—doing what they typically do when in damage-control mode: Painting arcade games, books, and "Splatterday" as the "filthiest form of pornography," and then blaming them for national tragedy. Click here for things the NRA didn't blame for mass murder in America today.

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