Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says the path to GOP success in 2020 is running “to be the firewall that saves the country from socialism.”
McConnell told reporters Thursday that he is advising all Republican Senate candidates to run on offense by casting themselves as the only alternative to Democrats who want to drive the country to the left.
“You add up things like packing the Supreme Court, getting rid of the electoral college, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for none and you have a prescription of turning America into something it never has been and never should be,” McConnell said. “So we intend to be on the offense in running our races.”
McConnell said Republicans running for Senate can also “paint your own picture of what your service has meant to your constituents” — a plan that involves highlighting the Senate’s work on criminal justice reform and combating the opioid crisis.
Left-leaning policies discussed by Democrats on the presidential campaign trail will help form the foundation of GOP attacks on Democrats running for other offices as well.
“My experience in politics has been that very few voters come out and vote and say thank you,” McConnell said. “They generally are looking for what the deficiencies are on one side or another and I think what we’re seeing in the Democratic presidential primaries, gives us a sense of what we should be against in 2020.”
The top Senate GOP leader said his party can learn a lesson from the 2018 election when it lost control of the House of Representatives. He said a 2020 campaign needs to repair major losses among women and college graduates to regain ground with critical suburban voters.
“We did very poorly in the suburbs, which cost us the House,” he said. “To give you a sense of that the gender issue, we lost women by four points in 2014 — about typical you know in a successful year for us. We lost women by 19 in ’18 and we lost college graduates for the first time in my memory. That is not a path to political success.”
That plan of attack isn’t preventing McConnell from pursuing some bipartisan agreements in the many months ahead next year’s elections. McConnell says he has a good working relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and he has high hopes that the two can work together to reach a two-year budget agreement in the near future.
He announced plans earlier this week to work with Pelosi and the White House on a bipartisan deal to prevent a government shutdown later this year.
“We’re each enabling at the staff level people to begin to discuss what we’re going to do,” McConnell said. “And we have to do it together.”
Pelosi and McConnell hope to avoid a repeat of the 35-day partial government shutdown that started before Christmas last year and dragged on until January 25 of this year. One way to avoid that is for party leaders to reach deal on a spending package that satisfies a majority of members in the middle, even if it alienates progressives and conservatives on the fringes of each party.
“The only thing possible is a bipartisan agreement that probably in the end the most liberal members of her party don’t vote for and most conservative members of my party don’t vote for,” McConnell said. “But it gives us some semblance of a way to have a normal appropriations process.”
The words of encouragement about a deal weren’t without a dig at Pelosi’s political predicament in managing her new, ideologically diverse majority. McConnell compared liberal House Democrats –many of whom tried to force votes on liberal issues like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and threatened to vote against a budget bill to push for greater domestic spending — to the divisive House Freedom Caucus that fractured the GOP in previous years.
“I was almost tempted to call up my good friend the speaker and say ‘congratulations you’ve got a Freedom Caucus on your hands’,” McConnell joked, “And she clearly does.”
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu waves during his inauguration ceremony at the State House in Concord, N.H., this January.
New Hampshire is poised to become the 21st state to abolish the death penalty.
The state Senate voted 17-6 Thursday to end capital punishment, adding its voice to the state House which voted for repeal last month by a vote of 279-88. The bill changes the penalty for capital murder to a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, has threatened a veto. But with more than two-thirds majority support in both chambers, the legislature could override a veto, making New Hampshire the final state in New England to repeal the death penalty.
“As I get older I realized for a fact we’re actually all on death row and it’s just a matter of time before our names get called,” said Republican state Sen. Harold French, who voted for repeal. “When my name gets called, I’m going to go before the Lord with a huge basket full of regrets and misdeeds, just like you will. But I tell you what won’t be in that basket of misdeeds. … I did not turn a deaf ear to those who came and took the time to speak to us to get rid of the death penalty,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
There is one man currently on New Hampshire’s death row and he may not benefit from the measure. The repeal bill won’t apply retroactively to Michael K. Addison, who was convicted of the 2006 killing of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.
But capital punishment supporters worry that once the state abolishes the death penalty, the judicial system will be loath to apply it to Addison. “The day that this passes and is signed into law, Mr. Addison’s sentence will be converted to life in prison,” said state Sen. Sharon Carson, according to the AP.
As New Hampshire Public Radio reports, Briggs’s widow, Laura, opposed the push to abolish the death penalty. “It’s not about an eye for an eye or revenge,” she said. “It’s about protecting our society from evil people that do evil things.”
It’s been 80 years since New Hampshire last executed someone, when in 1939, Howard Long was hanged after he molested four children and killed two of them, including a 10-year-old boy.
The state’s lawmakers have voted to repeal the death penalty twice this century – once in 2000, and once in 2018 — but in each case the governor vetoed the bill, the New York Times reported. Last year the state Senate failed to muster the 16 votes needed to override the veto. This time, the Senate has the numbers.
“Governor Sununu continues to stand with crime victims, members of the law enforcement community, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty,” his office said in a statement, according to the Washington Post.
Once the bill is signed by the House speaker, Senate president and secretary of state, Gov. Sununu will have five business days to either veto the bill, sign it or let it become law without a signature, the Union Leader reports.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed the “heartbeat bill” one day after it passed the Republican-led General Assembly.
The six-week abortion ban known as the “heartbeat bill” is now law in Ohio. That makes Ohio the sixth state in the nation to attempt to outlaw abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill Thursday afternoon, just one day after it passed the Republican-led General Assembly. The law is slated to take effect in 90 days, unless blocked by a federal judge.
Now known as the “Human Rights Protection Act,” SB 23 outlaws abortions as early as five or six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. It is one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
The bill does include an exception to save the life of the woman, but no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
“The essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us, those who don’t have a voice,” DeWine said as he signed the bill. “Government’s role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end.”
Federal judges in Kentucky and Iowa have blocked the laws or struck them down as unconstitutional. Another bill in Georgia has yet to be signed by the governor.
DeWine’s signature will set off a lengthy legal fight. The ACLU of Ohio announced it will sue to stop the law, which the group says “virtually bans all abortion care.”
“This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight to the bitter end to ensure that this bill is permanently blocked,” said ACLU of Ohio legal director Freda Levenson in a statement.
The group plans to sue on behalf of Pre-Term Cleveland, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and the Women’s Med Center of Dayton.
But DeWine and lawmakers said they aren’t dissuaded by the threat of legal action. Since taking office in January, DeWine had said he planned to sign whichever version of the heartbeat bill ended up on his desk.
“Will there be a lawsuit? Yeah, we are counting on it,” said state Rep. Ron Hood on Wednesday. “We’re counting on it. We’re excited about it.”
Anti-abortion groups such as Ohio Right To Life say they intend the heartbeat bill to trigger a U.S. Supreme Court case striking down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. That case legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22-24 weeks.
“If this is what it takes, we will see you at the Supreme Court,” said Planned Parenthood of Ohio President Iris Harvey at a rally Wednesday outside the Statehouse.
The Ohio Senate originally passed the bill last month. The Republican-led House Health Committee then made several changes before sending it to the House floor, where it passed by party-line vote.
Beyond changing the name, the Ohio House version protects the use of transvaginal ultrasounds to determine a fetal heartbeat. Such devices allow heartbeats to be detected even earlier in a pregnancy.
The bill institutes criminal penalties for doctors who violate the law. Doctors who perform abortions after detecting a heartbeat would face a fifth-degree felony and up to a year in prison. The legislation also allows the State Medical Board to take disciplinary actions against doctors found in violation and impose penalties of up to $20,000.
After hearing testimony from lawmakers and advocates, the Ohio House passed the bill Wednesday afternoon, 56-40, and the Ohio Senate quickly followed to affirm the changes, 18-12.
“Pro-life Ohio thanks Governor DeWine for taking a courageous stand on behalf of unborn children with beating hearts,” said Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis in a statement.
Currently, Ohio prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and lawmakers in 2018 passed a law banning the “dilation and evacuation” method of abortion used most commonly after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The latter was blocked from taking effect by a federal judge in March.
The Ohio Senate in March passed another bill requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains. The bill is now being considered in the Ohio House.
Legislators attempted several times before to pass the heartbeat bill, but the legislation was twice vetoed by former Gov. John Kasich, who warned it would prove costly for the state to defend in court.
People in the Israeli city of Netanya watching images taken by the camera of the Israel Beresheet spacecraft of the moon surface before it crashed.
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
The unmanned Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, a privately funded mission, failed upon its final descent to the moon Thursday, dashing hopes of joining the ranks of global superpowers in successfully landing on the lunar surface.
The SpaceIL craft “definitely crashed on the surface of the moon,” said general manager of the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries, Doron Opher as quoted by the Associated Press. He said scientists are trying to determine what caused the engine failure, dooming the spacecraft to travel too quickly to land safely.
The robotic moon lander was built by the non-profit SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.
“We will try again,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowing to make a successful moon landing in the next two years.
Space programs in only three nations — the U.S., Russia and China — have successfully landed spacecraft on the moon.
The Beresheet was launched from Cape Canaveral with the aid of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in February. Beresheet is Hebrew for “in the beginning.”
The failed landing was viewed nationwide in Israel and the U.S. space agency NASA also broadcast the landing mission live on its dedicated TV channels, as well as online.
“While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”
The USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan on June 17, 2017. The $1.8 billion destroyer, manned by a 300-member crew, had been steaming on a secret mission to the South China Sea when it was struck by a cargo ship more than three times its size. Seven sailors died.
The U.S. Navy is set to drop all criminal charges against two officers following the fatal collision that killed seven sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald as the destroyer was on a secret mission.
The decision ends a years-long legal battle in which the Navy blamed Cmdr. Bryce Benson and Lt. Natalie Combs, among others, for what it determined was an “avoidable” accident caused, in part, by numerous leadership failures. But the move will also likely end both their naval careers.
A statement issued Wednesday explained that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson recommended the negligence charges against the officers be withdrawn and dismissed.
“This decision is in the best interest of the Navy, the families of the Fitzgerald Sailors, and the procedural rights of the accused officers,” the statement reads. “Both officers were previously dismissed from their jobs and received non-judicial punishment.”
Additionally, the statement says Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer will issue letters of censure to Benson and Combs. The letters carry no legal weight but are used within the military to publicly shame service members.
“The cases are being dismissed for legal reasons that impede the continued prosecution of either officer,” the Navy explained in letters sent to the families of the seven sailors who died in the collision with a cargo ship, USNI News reported.
Combs’ lawyer, David Sheldon, told NPR the lieutenant received a letter of censure from the Secretary of the Navy on Thursday admonishing her for her actions.
“To be clear, Lt. Combs was fully prepared to defend and defeat the charges brought against her,” Sheldon said. “She was not responsible for setting an operational tempo that undercut staffing and training, that allowed for the ship to move with ‘degraded’ radar and that put sailors at extreme risk aboard the USS Fitzgerald.”
The USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan on June 17, 2017. The $1.8 billion destroyer, manned by a 300-member crew, had been steaming on a secret mission to the South China Sea when it was struck by a cargo ship more than three times its size. The resulting gash from the strike was bigger than a semitruck. Hundreds of tons of water flooded into the warship, leaving seven sailors dead in their berthing compartments.
Benson was the ship’s commanding officer at the time. Combs served as the tactical action officer.
Two months later another destroyer — the USS John S. McCain — smashed into a Liberian-flagged tanker near Singapore, resulting in the deaths of 10 sailors.
A Navy investigation of both accidents found that in the case of the Fitzgerald, “Many of the decisions made that led to this incident were the result of poor judgment and decision making of the Commanding Officer.” But the report added, “The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation.”
And, at a press briefing following the release of the report, Richardson told reporters that “rising pressure to meet operational demands led those in command to rationalize declining standards … in fundamental seamanship” skills.
Richardson said crew members lacked a basic understanding of how to drive the ship. They did not know “how to respond when you get into a crossing situation” or “the basics of understanding the ship control console,” he said.
He also acknowledged fatigue and sleep deprivation played a role in the deadly incident.
The findings of the investigation ultimately led to an overhaul of the Navy’s training, scheduling, policies managing fatigue and operational safety procedures.
“The comprehensive program to improve Navy readiness and training, to do everything possible to ensure that accidents like this will not recur, remains on track,” the Navy said on Thursday.
We are thrilled to welcome Apparat to KCRW in celebration of the fresh release of LP5, for an exclusive guest mix on Metropolis.
The new record is heavily influenced by Sascha Ring’s experience making music with Moderat. Listeners will find sublime, delicate and unexpected twists in track after track on LP5. The album stands as a testament to Ring’s work with elegiac techno and ambient soundscapes that embrace a universal sonic beauty.
- Beck, “Already Dead”
- Autechre, “Foldfree Casual”
- Bon Iver, “Moon Water”
- Jan Hammer , “Night Talk”
- The Antlers, “Sylvia”
- Szun Waves, “Moon Runes”
- Apparat, “Dawan”
- Kevin Shields, “Goodbye”
- The Sea And Cake, “Four Corners”
- Güiro Meets Russia, “Die Reise”
- John Beltran, “Dream Lover”
- Rolando Simmons, “Song Of Susannah”
- Fjaak, “Version 18.104.22.168”
We are thrilled to welcome Nightmares On Wax to KCRW for an exclusive guest mix on Metropolis.
In his label’s own words:
The marriage of soul, hip-hop, dub and timeless club sounds that N.O.W. has been mutating and perfecting for years finds perhaps its most fluid form yet on his latest album in nearly half a decade, Shape The Future.
The resulting sound is both familiar and thrilling to longtime fans, with the kind of deep-in-the-pocket grooves and sticky melodies Nightmares on Wax is known for.
- Pasquale Caracciolo, “Paradisa” (Original Mix)
- Todd Terry, “Beat Like This” (City Soul Project Remix)
- Nightmares On Wax, “Look Up Main”
- Fat Freddy’s Drop, “Russia Now (M6)”
- Gregory Porter, “Liquid Spirit” (DJ Smash Remix)
- Mark Farina & Homero Espinosa, “Work. Groove” (Chezz Cosmic Groove Mix)
- P-Sol, “Take It Off”
- Sartorial & Simon, “Got You The Floor”
- Ashley Beedle, “Warbox Dubplate Special”
Teen Spirit stars Elle Fanning as Violet, a girl from the Isle of Wight with dreams of being a pop star.
Bleeker Street Media
Bleeker Street Media
The terrific young actress Elle Fanning has a still, otherworldly beauty and a quizzical air, as if she just wafted in from some other planet and was baffled by the odd ways of Earth. A wise old soul in a supermodel’s body, Fanning might not be the intuitive choice to play an unpopular high school girl with songbird ambitions and no threads to match. Turns out she can sing, dance and handle dialogue in both Brit and Polish — all while projecting a chronically introverted Cinderella vibe, with a wild side yearning to break free.
In Teen Spirit, a confident directing debut by actor Max Minghella (The Handmaid’s Tale), we meet Fanning’s Violet marooned at the poverty-stricken butt end of England’s scenic Isle of Wight, tending to goats while secretly performing for a smattering of indifferent barflies in a down-at-heel local pub. Mean girls abound in class; the school choir fails to satisfy; and Violet’s harried Polish mother (Agnieszka Grochowska) isn’t exactly on board for her daughter’s decision to audition for a local song competition. Discouraged, Violet is ready to give up when an unlikely fairy godfather materializes in the amply-bellied form of Vlad (a very good Zlatko Buric), a washed-up opera singer in acute need of spiritual redemption and income, not necessarily in that order.
Vlad has smashed his own life to rubble, but in the way of teen dramas he will prove solid in ways that go way beyond teaching Violet how to breathe through a stanza. Others will help her out with her stage presence as much as with her unhelpful fantasies about a father whose absence she can fill up with demonization or with hero worship. True to genre, Violet faces down the usual array of bullies and cheaters; a handsome jerk who threatens to derail her focus; a slick music biz packager waving an iffy contract and nimbly played against type by Rebecca Hall.
Still, what Teen Spirit lacks in original premise it makes up for with skillfully mounted ambiance that adds up to a beguiling calling card for Minghella, who comes in blessed with killer cinematic genes. His father was the late Anthony Minghella (The English Patient and Truly, Madly, Deeply), and Max harnesses his dad’s gift for breathing romance into the dreariest habitat, which he retools into his own generational idiom with music-video energy and an eclectic soundtrack, by turns jaunty and wistful, that stretches from Annie Lennox to Ariana Grande and Katy Perry.
It’s Fanning, though, who retains the sweetness of this heavily-trodden teen fable without ever tipping it over into cloying goo. Now 21 years old, Fanning has been acting since she was three years old. In vastly divergent roles such as the poorly mothered British teen in Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa (2012), feisty Princess Aurora in Robert Stromberg’s 2014 Maleficent, and a sexed-up minx in Sofia Coppola’s 2017 The Beguiled, Fanning has always exuded a signature restrained gravity that hints at much internal ado. Here, too, she pays out an ambiguity that keeps us wondering, and not a little anxious, about the inner tensions that both stymie this young woman and propel her forward from shy caterpillar to resplendent butterfly.
Always on her own terms, Violet releases the necessary exhibitionist in her slowly and with something approaching reluctance. She’s a winner, but the movie leaves us with just enough openness in Violet’s destiny to make me imagine what depth Fanning might bring to a movie about a pop star trying to deal with flaming out rather than winning. Vox Lux, perhaps, only without the shouting.
Aw, crap: David Harbour stars in the 2019 reboot of Hellboy.
Hellboy, despite its colon-free title, is actually the fifth movie starring the good-guy demon hero (if you count the two animated films that featured the same cast as the live-action films made by monsteur auteur Guillermo del Toro in 2004 and 2008) and it’s even more exhausting than this sentence.
Pity. The blue-collar, crimson-skinned agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense — basically a more inclusive version of the Men in Black, with a more casual dress code — is a marvelous character on the page. And because filmmaker del Toro has at least as much affection for 1930s serials and monster movies and European folklore as cartoonist Mike Mignola (Hellboy’s creator) does, his two adaptations of Mignola’s comics were revered. But like most del Toro films they were only moderate box office successes, and the profligate profitability of Marvel movies in the subsequent decade (Hellboy is a creator-owned specimen of IP, outside the Disney megalith) demanded that someone try to tap that rich vein again.
Englishman Neil Marshall would appear to be a sterling candidate: He made a trio of well-regarded low-budget genre flicks and directed two episodes of Game of Thrones, including “Blackwater,” which featured the climactic battle of the series’ second season. The chaotic, repetitive movie he’s given us here calls into question not just his competence but his taste. He’s de-emphasized the warmth del Toro brought to the material and amped up the limb-rending and especially the eye-piercing a hundredfold. This is clearly a calculated decision; with the majority of comic book films sticking to PG-13 levels of genocide, all this gristle and viscera has at least a chance of making Hellboy ’19 feel distinct. But the gore is deployed too indiscriminately to provoke anything other than bored revulsion, offering neither a sense of threat nor comic punctuation, the way it does in, say, the Evil Dead movies.
The flying entrails aren’t the only element that feels hacky. Marshall scores most of his big set pieces with soundalike selections of ersatz blooze-rock. (The last one uses Mötley Crüe’s 1989 jock jam “Kickstart My Heart,” saving the best for last, I guess.) He has apparently directed star David Harbour — replacing Ron Perlman as the demon with the red and extremely rocky right hand — to elongate his line readings like Point Break-era Keanu Reeves whenever he wishes to convey irritation, which is most of the time. Maybe the actor is just trying to be heard under all that monster makeup. Harbour, a pleasingly idiosyncratic performer on Stranger Things and in the Bond flick Quantum of Solace, does not possess Perlman’s long-honed talent for conveying complex emotion through latex.
The rest of the cast is fine. Its biggest get is Ian McShane, doomed for all eternity to lend his profane tenor to stuff that is not as good as Deadwood, who plays Trevor Bruttenholm, the cranky paranormal scholar who found baby demon Hellboy in 1944 and raised him as his own son. (There’s a line of dialogue about some kind of spell that makes both characters age slowly.) Milla Jovovich plays a witch who was dismembered and buried in several different coffins by King Arthur, only to rise again in the 21st century to bring about Armageddon by… copulating with Hellboy, I think. If Jovovich was ever on set as the same time as the other actors, it doesn’t feel that way. Daniel Dae Kim replaced Ed Skrein as special forces soldier and undead were-jaguar Ben Daimo— a character of Japanese-American extraction — during pre-production, after complaints of whitewashing. Texan Sasha Lane plays BPRD agent Alice Monaghan, whom Hellboy rescued from abduction by malevolent fairies when she was just a baby. There’s an attempt to give the later two an esprit de corps with Hellboy, but the movie never pauses long enough between monster battles for any of its character work to stick. We have to hurry up and get to the destruction or London, and then the undestruction of London. It all feels weightless and reversible, which makes it feel endless.
Some of Mignola’s most memorable Hellboy stories have been short ones — like “The Corpse,” which presented the rescue of little Alice depicted in flashback in the new movie — so it’s fitting, I guess, that this movie features exactly two terrific sequences that could be carved out and presented as shorts. In one of them, Hellboy consults Baba Yaga, a rotting, crab-like witch who lives in a house mounted on giant Ostrich legs. Her domicile is the most arresting image in the movie, but Baba Yaga’s tactile appearance and otherworldly way of scurrying about the frame lingered with me, too. And Hellboy’s re-introduction, wherein he must recover a fugitive BPRD agent from a Tijuana sports venue where his target is participating in a lucha libre match, plays like a cold open from a Bond flick — a witty, self-aware sequence that sets a tempo the film’s remaining 105 minutes can’t meet.
Much of the appeal of Mignola’s comics lies is in his angular, heavy-ink style, which in addition to conjuring mood and atmosphere, makes the gnarly stuff less gross to look at. (Other artists who’ve drawn the character, like Duncan Fegredo, have followed Mignola’s example.) Rendering all this stuff in photorealistic CGI does not necessarily add value. If we have to have more Hellboy movies and del Toro isn’t going to make them, maybe they should be shot in black and white.