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.

The Most Clint Eastwood-y Clint Eastwood Quotes in "Trouble with the Curve"

| Fri Sep. 21, 2012 4:36 PM PDT

Trouble with the Curve
Warner Bros. Pictures
111 minutes

NOTE: There will be no empty chair jokes in this post. Yes, Clint Eastwood gave a circuitous, hilarious speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention as an old and slightly confused man. And just three weeks later, he has a new movie in theaters in which plays an old and slightly confused man. It practically begs for a torrent of lazy puns, headlines, and ledes. Almost all the film critics making their chair jokes are motivated by a misguided impulse to be clever, cute, and topical. (Emphasis on "misguided.") Do. Not. Make. Them. You are better than that. (Also, if you'd like to hear more about this film, ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg and I chat about it here.)

Clint Eastwood's new movie came out today. It's an ordinary but innocently enjoyable film about cigar-chomping baseball scout Gus Lobel (Eastwood, always worthwhile) and his daughter Mickey (the reliably wonderful Amy Adams, who is also in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master this week). Yogi Bear adaptation superstar Justin Timberlake shows up for some of the movie. Trouble is serviceable, but nothing special (for such so-so material, Eastwood was probably wise to produce and star, and turn over directing duties to Robert Lorenz).

At its better, non-sentimental moments, it's simply Clint Eastwood continuing to elevate crotchety emoting to a level of art form.

And so I present to you my list of, "The Most Clint Eastwood-y Clint Eastwood Quotes in Trouble with the Curve":

1. "Don't laugh. I outlived you, you little bastard." — to his penis, as he urinates in the morning, struggling with an aged prostate.

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The Afghanistan US Troop Surge Is Officially Over

| Fri Sep. 21, 2012 2:01 PM PDT

This happened on Friday, to "little fanfare":

The American military says it has completed what it called the "recovery," meaning withdrawal, of the 33,000 surge troops it had sent to Afghanistan two years ago, more than a week ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline President Obama set for them to go home.

Here a few more numbers to keep in mind as we approach the 2014 deadline for withdrawal of US combat forces:

68,000: The number of US troops still stationed in Afghanistan.

117,227: The total number of Department of Defense contractors working in Afghanistan.

34,765: The number of US citizens working as contractors in Afghanistan.

9,355: The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan since Obama took office.

18,553: The total number of civilian casualties since the war started.

1491: The number of US troop casualties in Afghanistan since Obama took office.

2121: The total number of US troop casualties since the war started.

$385,600,000,000: The estimated financial cost of the war in Afghanistan to the US taxpayer since Obama took office.

$557,300,000,000: The estimated financial cost of the war in Afghanistan to the US taxpayer since October 7, 2001.

State Department Officially Removing MEK From US Terror List

| Fri Sep. 21, 2012 11:31 AM PDT
MEK supporters in front of the US State Department on August 26, 2011.

After a few months of will-they-won't-they tension, the US State Department decided on Friday to officially remove the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, which the Iranian exile group has been on for the past 15 years.

CNN broke the story:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to notify Congress as early as Friday that she intends to take the [MEK]...off a State Department terror list, three senor administration officials told CNN...MEK was placed on the US terrorism list in 1997 because of the killing of six Americans in Iran in the 1970s and an attempted attack against the Iranian mission to the United Nations in 1992. However, since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf [in Iraq] "noncombatants" and "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions. The group is in the final stages of moving from a refugee camp in Iraq where they've lived for more than 25 years is nearing completion under the auspices of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.

The Paris-based MEK—which enjoys a solidly low level of popular support among Iranians—is also called the The People's Mujahideen of Iran, and was founded in Tehran in the mid-1960s as a synthesis of Islamic principle, left-wing populism, and violent resistance to the Shah. It has since been blasted by critics as a totalitarian, hero-worshipping cult with a history of engaging in indiscriminate mass murder (a particular sore spot is the allegation that MEK fighters acted as a death squad for Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Shiite and Kurdish uprisings in Iraq). Today, the group is reportedly on the frontlines of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, and has a long, bipartisan list of powerful friends in the US who pitch the group as the Western-friendly and pluralistic antidote to the Islamic republic.

The bizarro patchwork of high-profile advocates includes John Bolton, Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.), at least two Romney campaign advisor, Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, and ex-FBI director Louis Freeh. Some of these top supporters received subpoenas from the Treasury department last March during an investigation of speaking fees for pro-MEK events—something that could potentially amount to providing material support to a designated terror organization.

As I reported last year, well-funded MEK backers also received a lobbying assist from high-powered international PR firm Brown Lloyd James—a company that has something of a reputation for sanitizing the records of dictators with names like Qaddafi and Assad. (Other clients have included AARP, the state of Qatar, the Washington embassy of Ecuador, Al Jazeera English, Russia Today, Forbes, and the famous composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.)

"The Master": One Long, Impressive "Meh"

| Fri Sep. 21, 2012 3:01 AM PDT
Dodd complex: Philip Seymour Hoffman as fictional '50s cult leader Lancaster Dodd.

The Master
The Weinstein Company
137 minutes

The Master is the kind of movie destined for dissection and canonization by critics and film students for eons to come—and for all the wrong reasons. It's tremendously ambitious and gorgeously shot (in 65mm, no less). It's the latest big-screen offering from the sadly not very prolific writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, the brilliant 42-year-old maestro behind classics like Magnolia (1999) and Punch-Drunk Love (2002). The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura Dern, and Amy Adams, all of whom have built filmographies that speak volumes for themselves. Hell, Radiohead's lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is back working with Anderson on the score!

It's the type of movie you'd be silly not to root for. And yet The Master achieves little more than being a film of ravishingly empty beauty, choked off by an untiring indulgence in flat visual metaphor.

I take no joy in typing this. As a fan of Anderson's challenging, often beautiful work (he has an eye for character, photography, and epic sweep that few of his generation possess), this letdown stings just as badly as the pangs of disappointment felt after Pixar disproved the longstanding theory that they are incapable of making a bad movie.

"Movie & An Argument" Podcast: Chick Flicks & Dick Flicks Edition

| Fri Sep. 21, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

On this week's episode of A Movie & An Argument, With Alyssa Rosenberg & Asawin Suebsaeng, we discuss:

  • The Master, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's hotly anticipated new drama (with a central character inspired by the L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology). I give the movie (and prime 2012 Oscar bait) a very sad, disappointed "meh." It opens Friday, September 21.
  • End of Watch, an acclaimed cop drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Alyssa gives the film her enthusiastic endorsement. It opens Friday, September 21.
  • Trouble with the Curve, Clint Eastwood's latest flick, in which he plays an aging, reliably crotchety baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. (Hold all of the empty-chair jokes, or so help me god.) It opens Friday, September 21.
  • More on the third and current season of Boardwalk Empire on HBO.
  • The Mob Doctor on Fox.
  • "Chicks flicks" and "dick flicks," and also GQ's epically dumb "Men's Guide to Fall TV."
  • A little bit about Mitt Romney, just cuz.

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 in the iTunes store, click here.

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

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