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.

CHARTS: US Overseas Arms Sales More Than Tripled in 2011

| Wed Aug. 29, 2012 6:05 AM EDT

In 2011, the United States experienced its biggest year ever in weapons exports: According to an annual study by the Congressional Research Service [PDF] released earlier this week, the US overseas weapons sales jumped to $66.3 billion last year (77.7 percent of the $85.3 billion global market in 2011), from $21.4 billion in deals in 2010. 

In just one year, the US more than tripled its revenue in arms deals with foreign countries. The $66.3 billion also sets a new cash total record, easily surpassing the previous record of $31 billion in sales in fiscal year 2009.

If you're having trouble putting those hefty sums in perspective, $66.3 billion is amounts to an extra $9.50 in lunch money for every man, woman, and child alive today. And if you're still having some trouble putting this in perspective, here's a pie chart that shows just how much our global share in arms deals with developing countries ticked up in that one year:

 

Yep. That's us, on the right, doing a reverse-Pac-Man-death on overseas arms transfer agreements between 2010 and 2011.

The uptick was mostly fueled by demand in developing countries, which accounted for over $56 billion in sales from the US. Here are two more charts illustrating in constant dollars how America definitively pwns all others in flooding the arms market in the developing world:

 

Illustrations by Dave Gilson

 

Much of the surge was driven exclusively by the ongoing freak-out over Iran: Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (all Persian Gulf allies or partners of the United States) in particular started buying missile defense systems, fighter jets, and other hardware from the US at record levels, just in case Iran ever goes nuclear and tries to throw its weight around West Asia and the Gulf. Saudi Arabia's $33.4 billion deal included dozens of F-15 fighter jets and Black Hawk helicopters. The UAE threw down $4.5 billion for a missile shield and other toys.

And in case you were wondering: In arms sales to both developing and developed nations, our closest competitor is Russia, which came in at a total of $4.8 billion in 2011—roughly 7 percent of what the United States hauled in that same year:

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GOP House Hopeful Pushes Extreme Horse Testicle Metaphor

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 12:41 PM EDT

Ted Yoho, the Republican congressional candidate from Florida's 3rd District who has endorsements from Sarah Palin and the meat cutter at his local supermarket, indulges in some extreme, blood-drenched metaphor. Via Politico, here's one involving a pony:

Ted Yoho is one of the best-known large-animal veterinarians in Central Florida. So in May, when an old friend needed help castrating several miniature horses, Yoho rushed off in between radio interviews he was doing to talk about his underdog congressional campaign and lent his friend some scissors and a hand.

After the deed was done, Yoho held up the horse's testicles and proclaimed: "Washington needs a few more of these."

For rebuttal, here's Spike from My Little Pony:

Yoho is the tea party insurgent and animal doctor who earlier this month pulled off perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2012 cycle. With barely a shred of political experience to his name, he went up against powerful Republican incumbent (and top Planned Parenthood foe) Cliff Stearns. Stearns had a 16 to 1 campaign cash advantage... and still lost the race.

But back to Yoho's metaphorical horse-testicle-based assertion: Given congressional dudes' latest intonations on ladies' bodies, you could actually argue that the last thing Capitol Hill needs is more balls.

And now, enjoy a clip of Yoho talking to a George Bush impersonator: 

BREAKING: Todd Akin To Say Something Today

| Fri Aug. 24, 2012 4:11 PM EDT

UPDATE (Friday August 24, 5:33 p.m. EDT): Rep. Todd Akin took five press questions. Nothing has changed, he is still in the race, and his family is still running his Senate campaign. That was fun, guys. Happy Friday.

On Friday afternoon, embattled Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) announced that he is holding a press conference at 5:15 p.m. EDT.

After stepping into some mess with his strange account of female reproduction, Akin missed the first deadline earlier this week to drop out of his Missouri Senate race against Democrat Claire McCaskill, and vowed to fight on—even after the GOP money machine choked off financial support to his campaign. At the moment, it appears as though this presser is designed to remind reporters of the candidate's audacity: 

In other news:

Akin has been under fire from scores of liberals and conservatives after he posited last weekend that female victims of "legitimate rape" are unlikely to become pregnant.

On Friday afternoon, shortly before his planned press conference, his campaign changed his Facebook banner to: "WE PROVED THE PARTY BOSSES WRONG":

We will update this post after his planned statements, and as new information flows in.

Podcast: "A Movie & An Argument"—Tony Scott Memorial Edition

| Fri Aug. 24, 2012 9:05 AM EDT

This marks the second episode of our new podcast: A Movie & An Argument, With Alyssa and Swin.

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.

Below, you'll find the audio for this week's episode, in which we discuss:

  • The life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott and trailblazing comedienne Phyllis Diller, both of whom died earlier this week (my joint obituary can be found here, and Alyssa's obit for Scott is here).
  • The phone-sex-related comedy For a Good Time, Call... (a film Alyssa thoroughly endorses), which stars Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller, Seth Rogen, Justin Long, and Nia Vardalos. It gets a limited release on August 31.
  • The monstrously awful Dax Shepard movie Hit and Run, which I say is currently running neck-and-neck with That's My Boy for title of Lousiest Film of 2012. (It also features perhaps the lamest prison-rape joke ever captured on camera.)
  • That new movie coming out in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt rides a bicycle for an hour-and-a-half.

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.

Thanks for listening!

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

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

To hear or download more episodes of this podcast, click here.

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

23 Numbers to Know About the 2012 Republican and Democratic Conventions

| Fri Aug. 24, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Summer is on its way out. The class of 2016 is shipping out, all the good summer movies seem a distant memory, and the NFL is only in preseason. At this point, you might even be gearing up to live-tweet and intensely hate-watch media coverage of the 2012 Republican and Democratic national conventions.

While you're waiting, here's a rundown of some numbers to know for the nominating conventions in Tampa and Charlotte: 

50,000: The number of people (media, delegates, attendees, merchants, etc.) expected to take part in the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, between August 27 and 30. (Around thirty-two percent of attendees will be journalists; 4.6 percent will be actual delegates.)

35,000: The number of people expected to take part in the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, between September 4 and 6. (Forty-three percent journalists, 16 percent delegates.)

670,000: The number of square feet that make up the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the convention site where Mitt Romney will be delivering his acceptance speech.

The Tampa Bay Times Forum WikiThe Tampa Bay Times Forum Christopher Hollis/Wdwic Pictures/Wikimedia Commons1,600,000: The number of square feet that make up Bank of America Stadium (a.k.a., "Panthers Stadium," on the night the president is speaking), where Barack Obama will be delivering his acceptance speech.

Bank of America Stadium WikiBank of America Stadium UCinternational/Wikimedia Commons

346,037: The population of Tampa.

751,087: The population of Charlotte.

$2,000,000: The amount spent by the Tampa Police Department on 60 new surveillance cameras, all of which are installed downtown.

$765,795: The amount spent by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on security software and a "command center upgrade."

15,000: The number of protesters expected to show up at the Tampa convention site.

10,000: The number of protesters expected to show up at the Charlotte convention site.

$136,000,000: The total amount of cash the two parties have received in public funding for convention security and other expenses.

$175,000,000: Amount of money projected to flow into the local Tampa economy as a result of the four-day-long Republican convention.

$150,000,000: Amount of money projected flow into the local Charlotte economy as a result of the three-day-long Democratic convention.

$55,000,000: The fundraising dollars the Republican host committee expects to haul in during the four days in Tampa.

$36,600,000: The fundraising dollars the Democratic host committee hopes to achieve in the three days in Charlotte. (They likely won't.)

$0: The convention funds Democrats have raised from corporate donors. (This isn't a #fail, per se; it's intentional.) 

33: The percentage of registered voters who identify as Republicans in Hillsborough County, where the city of Tampa is located.

45.2: The percentage of registered voters who identify as Democrats in Mecklenburg County, where the city of Charlotte is located.

Via Ruth's List FloridaVia Ruth's List Florida

49: The age of the Republican keynote speaker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, at the time of the 2012 convention.

Wikimedia CommonsDavid Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons37: The age of the Democratic keynote speaker, San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, at the time of the 2012 convention.

WikiJamesgatz/Wikimedia Commons20: The number of strip clubs in Tampa.

12: The number of strip clubs in Charlotte.
 

A CAGILLION BAGILLION: The estimated number of highly predictable stories published by various news outlets over the past three months on what the Republican and Democratic national conventions mean for their respective host town's stripper revenue.

The Consumerist/FlickrThe Consumerist/Flickr

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