Denial or Something Else?

As I do my afternoon surfing I notice some commentators are amazed that Mitch McConnell, without any hope of success, is still going to force a Repeal vote.

Well, let me tell you how it is. Of course this is a capo di tutti story.

By the time I ran for election I’d already been part of a half dozen or so campaigns, some won, some lost, some I managed, others I had a more peripheral role. In every case there was a concession before the final vote, many times before a majority had even been secured after only a particular key local or two declared.

The benefits of concession were that you got to give a humiliating speech and certain vague promises were made and never kept. I even helped write a few.

In my election I picked my brother, the activist, over my best friend as manager despite the fact my friend had more experience. The reason was I had been my friend’s manager during his run and he conceeded, against my advice. At least I didn’t have to endure the indignity of helping to write the speech, that was all him.

The first thing I said to my brother was, “There will be no concession.”

The night before the election my friend (who was actually very supportive and helpful, don’t get me wrong) asked me, “Do you need some help with your speech?” meaning of course the concession. I think I said something diplomatic like “Don’t need any,” or “Got that covered.”

When the doors were locked after the last delegate was recognized I turned to my brother- “There will be no concession.”

As it turns out you get to make a humiliating speech even when you count the last vote (the Secretary pauses so the defeated candidate can make his way to the front) so I wouldn’t have missed much.

It could easily have turned out otherwise, I might have lost and there were many surprises and that really is my point, the reason for counting is so that you know how people stand and how much work you need to do in order to win next time.

So while I think Mitch McConnell is a vindictive, spiteful, asshole it’s not because he’s forcing his caucus into a useless and damaging vote. He’s just finding out where he stands.

And maybe culling the herd a little (Hey, I think Mitch is a vindictive, spiteful, asshole. It’s just that this is not the reason why.).

The Next Horrible

Because I am naturally cautious and have experienced too many Zombie Resurrections I’m not quite ready to declare Trumpcare staked, decapitated with a mouthful of garlic, pumped with a clip of silver bullets, dissolved in a vat of Holy Water, and shot into the surface of the Sun.

Though I certainly hope so.

The important thing to remember is however much you hate The Donald (and I hate him a lot) these are not his ideas (indeed I hold that Trump is incapable of formulating any idea that can’t be expressed in 140 characters or less and unable to retain even those longer than the attention span of a Fruit Fly), they are Republican ideas and represent the will of the Party.

The next horrible is the assault on the rest of what laughably passes as a Social Safety Net that keeps the dead bodies of old people from littering our streets. I’m talking of course about the assault on Social Security and Medicare being plotted by Paul Ryan and his gang of Granny Starvers under the guise of a Budget.

Philosophically it serves 2 purposes for Republicans. First it feeds your taxes directly into the pockets of the .01% Plutocrats under the doublespeak of “Reform”. Second it feeds that selfish Calvinist libertarian “morality” which holds that “I’m rich because I deserve it,” therefore “You are poor because you deserve it.”

Should have chosen different parents.

House GOP unveils budget plan that attaches major spending cuts to coming tax overhaul bill
By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post
July 18

House Republicans unveiled a 2018 budget plan Tuesday that would pave the way for ambitious tax reform legislation — but only alongside a package of politically sensitive spending cuts that threaten to derail the tax rewrite before it begins.

The instructions in the draft budget, however, go well beyond tax policy and set the stage for a potential $203 billion rollback of financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending and more. Those are policy areas where Republicans have, in many cases, already passed legislation in the House but have seen Democrats block action in the Senate.

Like the spending blueprint released this year by President Trump, the House plan envisions major cuts to federal spending over the coming decade, bringing the budget into balance by relying on accelerated economic growth to boost revenue. Under the House plan, defense spending would steadily increase over 10 years while nondefense discretionary spending would decline to $424 billion — a drastic cut from the $554 billion the federal government is spending in that category this year.

Unlike Trump’s budget, the House proposal cuts into Medicare — a program that the president has pledged to preserve. The House plan also makes a less-rosy economic growth assumption of 2.6 percent versus the 3 percent eyed by the Trump administration. Both, however, exceed the 1.9 percent figure used by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in its most recent economic estimates.

The Ways and Means Committee, which is drafting the tax bill, would be instructed to find $52 billion in deficit savings over the coming decade. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the panel’s chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), have said they intend to pursue a deficit-neutral reform bill, meaning the savings would have to be found in other programs under the committee’s jurisdiction — such as Medicare, disability aid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and unemployment compensation.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has explored cuts to the federal workforce and to federal employee benefits, would be required to find $32 billion in deficit savings, while the Education and Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over college aid programs, would have to find $20 billion.

The Financial Services Committee would be ordered to produce $14 billion in savings — a figure that could allow Republicans to repeal large parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The Congressional Budget Office found earlier this year that the Financial Choice Act, a Dodd-Frank repeal bill passed by the House last month, would produce about $24 billion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years.

And the Judiciary Committee would be responsible for $45 billion in deficit reduction, which is roughly the amount of savings produced under the Protecting Access to Care Act, a medical malpractice reform bill that also passed the House last month.

Both of those bills have little support among Democrats and would likely be blocked in the Senate under typical procedure. Reconciliation rules could allow Republicans to avoid that barrier.

The more profound barrier could be Republican divisions over the budget proposal itself. The effort to write a budget has been stalled for months as defense hawks, deficit watchdogs and appropriators have sparred over where to set spending levels. And while there appears to be a working accord on the House Budget Committee, it remains unclear whether the blueprint can survive a floor vote.

Members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus have been pushing for more aggressive long-term spending cuts in reconciliation. The group’s leader, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), told reporters last week that the numbers in the draft budget could not pass the House, calling the proposed $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts over the coming decade a relative pittance in a federal budget that already approaches $4 trillion in yearly spending.

Conservatives are also pushing House GOP leaders for more specificity on the tax reform bill — in particular, an assurance that a proposal to tax imported goods known as border adjustment will not be included.

Moderates, meanwhile, are staging a revolt of their own. Twenty members of the centrist Tuesday Group signed a letter last month objecting to even $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts, arguing they are “not practical” and would “make enacting tax reform even more difficult than it already will be.”

House Republican leaders have whistled past questions about the practicality of the spending levels they are proposing and instead have made the case to rank-and-file House members that passing the budget resolution — because of the reconciliation instructions — represents the only way to ensure a successful tax bill.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, defended the decision to yoke the unrelated spending cuts to the tax bill.

“Are you going to use a budget simply as a vehicle for tax reform? Or are you going to be true to keeping your promise of balancing the budget?” he said Tuesday. “This budget reflects the fact you’ve got to do both. To the extent that makes it more complicated, I hope colleagues can handle that. I know they can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Dead Again, Naturally

The Republican House Trumpcare 2.0 was dead on arrival in the Senate. Late last night the Senate’s second version (by my count that would have been 4.0) bled to death before it even reached the floor when two more senators defected to the rational side, or maybe not, depending on the reasons. It doesn’t matter, the bill was a disaster. Then just before midnight, Senate Majority Leader Mitch, the human-hybrid turtle, came up with the “genius” solution to just repeal the Affordable Care Act with a two year delay. The problem there was it could past the sniff test of reconciliation and would need 60 votes to pass. The need for 60 votes in this case is because, under the reconciliation act, if enacting, or in this case repealing, a bill it must be deficit neutral or decrease the deficit. In the case of the ACA, repealing it in its entirety would increase the deficit by billions, as MSNBC’s Ali Veshey explains this is a very dangerous road:

But McConnell’s plan to repeal the ACA in two years has also met its demise. As of late this morning three Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced that they could not support the bill.

This is not to say that Trump and his wrecking crew won’t do everything they can to make sure the ACA doesn’t work.

The Breakfast Club (Crazy)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

The Spanish Civil War begins; Sen. Ted Kennedy’s passenger dies when he drives his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island; South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and musician Ricky Skaggs born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Some may never live, but the crazy never die.

Hunter S. Thompson

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Ok, ok, they are the scum of the earth, bigoted, racist, misogynist assholes the lot.

They are a lot more reliable than Neo Liberal Centrists (who are of course reliable in their own way, which is they’d sell their own children for a magic bean) because they actually believe that flat earth reprehensible cow manure they spout.

It is a sad indictment of Neo Liberalism that the nail in the coffin of Trumpcare is delivered by 3 deluded fascists and only the one “No Labels” moderate, but I’ll take a win however it comes.

Four Republicans block Obamacare repeal bill in Senate
By Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico

Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran said Monday night they will join two other senators to oppose the Obamacare repeal bill, dooming the GOP initiative in the Senate.

Republican leaders could only afford to lose two senators on the procedural motion to start debate on the bill. Lee and Moran would join Sens. Susan Collins and Rand Paul in opposition to the version of the bill currently before the Senate.

But with four senators declared “no” votes – and several more undecided – Senate Republicans wouldn’t have enough votes to even start debate on repealing Obamacare, the campaign promise they have made to voters for seven years.

“In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations,” Lee said of the Senate legislation.

Moran criticized the closed-door process for developing the bill and criticized the legislation for not repealing the entire 2010 health law.

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he said in a statement. “We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”

Health Care Overhaul Collapses as Two Republican Senators Defect
JULY 17, 2017

Republican Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah declared Monday night they would oppose the Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, for now killing a seven-year-old promise to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

“There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” Mr. Moran said in a statement. “This closed-door process unfortunately has yielded the” Senate repeal bill, which he asserted, “failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care’s rising costs.”

The two senators coordinated their statements Monday night to have maximum impact. Already two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, a conservative, had declared their opposition to the latest version of the Senate repeal bill, which was unveiled last week. That left Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, on a knife’s edge, unable to absorb a single other defection.

By jumping together, Mr. Moran and Mr. Lee ensured no one would be the definitive “no” vote.

I’ll stop right there to point out that Heller, Murkowski, Capito, Portman, and Hoven, were too cowardly to do the same, though now you can surely expect them to join the “me too” chorus.

Gutless wonders.

The bad news is that now we’ll hear the calls for “bi-partisanship” which Democrats will jump on to resuscitate the Republicans because if they don’t have “lesser-evilism” there is no reason for them to exist at all.

Update: McConnell advocates complete repeal.

7 Days, 6 Lies

I dunno, there may have been some more today. I don’t watch Cable Noise, ‘Tween Comedies and Cartoons only (want to know about Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz? I’d be happy to tell you.).

6 defenses of Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting — each more dubious than the last
By Aaron Blake, Washington Post
July 17

Donald Trump Jr. is young

  • Plausibility rating: 1 out of 10. You can argue, perhaps, that Trump Jr. was a *political newcomer* who didn’t know how the whole thing worked. But the idea that he’s just a kid who should be given a pass is a pretty remarkable and subtle admission that this was bad. Also, the law generally doesn’t allow exceptions for well-meaning and youthful adults, and being unaware of the law isn’t a valid defense. We’ll give it a 1 because perhaps it plays in the court of public opinion, but the implication is still that Trump Jr. just wasn’t smart enough.

The Secret Service didn’t stop it

Loretta Lynch let the Russian lawyer into the U.S.

  • Plausibility rating: 1 out of 10. Perhaps Trump’s underlying argument is intact — that it was the *Obama administration* that allowed Veselnitskaya into the United States — but that still leaves the question of why that matters. Donald Trump Jr. took the meeting of his own volition, knowing what he was being offered.

It didn’t yield any useful information

  • Plausibility rating: 5 out of 10. This may actually be a good legal defense when it comes to campaign finance law and the line between intent and actual wrongdoing. But it doesn’t really change the fact that Trump Jr. sure seemed to hungry for such information.

It’s not collusion unless it’s extensive or planned

  • Plausibility rating: 1 out of 10. Conway’s definition of what “we were promised” is quite slanted. And even if it were true, it’s kind of immaterial as to whether or not this meeting broke the law.

Veselnitskaya was just a lobbyist/not a government lawyer

  • Plausibility rating: 2 out of 10. Maybe Veselnitskaya really isn’t working for the Kremlin! But to take her and the Kremlin’s word for it is pretty intellectually incurious and is asking us all to grant a pretty questionable premise. And at the very least, she was presented to Trump Jr. — multiple times in those emails — as working on behalf of the Russian government. So again, we’re asked to separate Trump Jr.’s intent from what he actually succeeded at.

Subdural Hematoma

Essentially it’s a bruise between the skull and the membrane that surrounds the brain. If it’s not drained and the pressure on the brain relieved… well, it will probably kill you.

But not to worry, Doctors have been treating these for thousands of years by drilling a hole in your head (Trepanning) to let out the demons (seriously, that’s what they thought because of the psychological symptoms) and if you avoided infection and they drilled in the right place you definitely had a very slim chance of surviving (we know this because of archeological evidence of the distinctive markings of the procedure and bone regrowth around the surgical site which indicates several years of post operative survival).

Today of course modern Medical science knows a good deal more (especially about infections) and because of the miracles of imaging we almost always drill in the right place (some early Doctors took 2 or 3 tries), but this is not a trivial event. It’s Brain Surgery Jim.

Nor is the reported size of the blood clot insignificant, 5 centimeters is just about 2 inches, almost the distance between your eyes. After the job is done they pound a Titanium plate in your head (really, they drill more holes and pin it in) and then you’re good to go. Maybe.

I’m not sure I’d be full of piss and vinegar if that happened to me, though John “Wet Start” McCain has the advantage of youth (he’s only 80, I’m over half again as old) and while 2 weeks have been added to the calendar by Mitch McConnell in a hopefully vain attempt to force Trumpcare through the Senate it’s unlikely McCain will be turning cartwheels on his way to the floor for the vote.

If he’s a yes vote at all, Gentleman Johnny was sounding pretty squiffy before they shoved him in the back of the ambulance, but that would be the demons talking of course.

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the CBO to tell us how bad it is (hint- really, really bad), but the question is, “why the fealty to a policy that is nearly universally despised?”

The Disturbing Process Behind Trumpcare
by Norm Ornstein, The Atlantic

(L)et’s look at BCRA. It started, of course, with McConnell bypassing the committees that deal with health policy, both Finance and Health, Education, Pensions, and Labor (HELP) by handpicking 13 Republican senators—all middle-aged and elderly white men—to work in complete privacy to draft the bill. Besides women like Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, McConnell also left off Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a physician with deeper knowledge of health policy than nearly all of the 13 chosen. The gang of 13 kept their vow of omerta, leaving even their Republican colleagues at sea during their sessions. And of course, McConnell brushed aside peremptorily any notion that Democrats would be brought into deliberations, or consulted.

Nor were the groups representing those on the front lines of health policy and delivery, including doctors, hospitals, insurers, nurses, those with debilitating diseases, and more, consulted or included. One of the more striking, and embarrassing, moments came when McConnell—who had overcome polio as a child—refused to meet with the March of Dimes, the non-profit founded in the New Deal era to combat the disease.

The bill that emerged was, of course, a catastrophe. It was not a carefully constructed health-policy bill, but basically a vehicle to give ginormous tax cuts to the wealthiest among us, financed by almost $800 billion in cuts from Medicaid, while also adding immensely to the health-care costs of poor and older Americans. The CBO score was devastating. And despite repeated vows to vote before the July 4 recess, McConnell had to take the bill back to the drawing board. Over the recess, we saw another remarkable phenomenon. Senators who went back home, ostensibly to meet and communicate with their constituents, instead mostly behaved as if they were in witness protection programs—doing everything they could to avoid town meetings or any gatherings with voters, or in some cases to hold meetings only with a pre-selected group to keep out those who would be hurt by the health bill.

The next iteration of the McConnell bill made a concession to Senator Ted Cruz to nail down votes from the radical members of the Senate GOP that health experts said would blow up insurance markets. It pared down some of the tax cuts, primarily to give McConnell a $200 billion-plus slush fund to lure recalcitrant Republican senators; he promptly threw in $42 billion more for opioid treatment to corral Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, and tossed billions more to Alaska to nail down Senator Lisa Murkowski.

But despite adding $172 billion to stabilize insurance markets, the bill kept all the provisions to blow up Medicaid, dealing victims of the opioid disaster a much larger blow than the additional $42 billion, continued to defund Planned Parenthood, and drew sustained condemnation for every major health industry group, every major health policy analyst, a slew of governors including Republicans like John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada. And the approval of the bill with the public stood at 38 percent in a Kaiser poll, lower than any piece of significant legislation I can ever recall.

Compounding all this, McConnell was intent on moving the bill before a new CBO score, even pushing to substitute a number from the Department of Health and Human Services. Along the way, to build support among wavering senators, administration officials led by HHS Secretary Price and Vice President Pence offered reassurances and statements that were simply false—so much so that Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich actually called out his own vice president.

By every past standard, and every logical standard of behavior in a representative democracy, this bill should be dead. It is not. Why not?

Republicans have no easy way out of a box canyon on health policy of their own making.

The ACA was fundamentally built on the Republican alternative to Clintoncare in 1993-94, as crafted by Charles Grassley, Orrin Hatch, the late John Chafee and the former Senator David Durenberger. Their alternative had competition for private insurers on regulated exchanges, and an individual mandate to buy insurance to broaden the risk pool and get rid of the burden of pre-existing conditions. When Republicans in 2009 decided not to cooperate with Democrats in Congress, but to unite in full-throated opposition to any plan that emerged, and then to work actively to delegitimize whatever passed, they created a big dilemma. Call Obamacare the worst thing since slavery, as Ben Carson did, vote over and over to repeal it root and branch—and you can’t then turn around and adopt its framework. That left no workable framework.

Of course there is a workable alternative: join with Democrats and fix the problems in Obamacare, stabilizing insurance markets, expanding Medicaid in the states that have failed to do so, finding ways to make the individual mandate work better to expand the risk pool more. But after a decade of success inflaming tribal warfare, that is not a path McConnell and Ryan are willing to take.

Republicans had no real interest in actually fixing the health-care system. This bill is far more a delivery system for tax cuts for the rich, paid for by cutting Medicaid.

Those tax cuts are the number one priority for conservatives in and out of Congress. But this could become a twofer. Conservatives have hated Medicaid ever since it was created in 1965. As Medicaid expanded to become the vehicle to pay for long-term care for the elderly along with care for the disabled and mentally ill, it became a huge government program. When Medicaid expansion became a core vehicle in Obamacare for giving health insurance to the poor, it became larger yet. So Republicans in Congress seized the moment to do something they have been unable to do in more than five decades—cut the program dramatically and shift the burden for the cuts largely to states. Doing so meant freeing up hundreds of billions of dollars that could then be used to pay for the first wave of deep tax cuts aimed especially at the richest among us. Indeed, the first BCRA iteration provided a boon for the 400 richest Americans that was large enough to pay for the Medicaid benefits of 725,000 Americans.

The tax-cut drive, however, was made much more complicated by budget rules. To get big tax cuts, Republicans have to avoid a Senate filibuster by Democrats; that means finding a vehicle that can bypass the 60-vote hurdle. Enter budget reconciliation. But reconciliation poses major hurdles to passing things that blow up deficits and debt. And reconciliation must be preceded by a budget resolution with instructions on what can be reconciled. ACA repeal was included in the budget last year—but not separate tax cuts. Those will require a new budget resolution and a second reconciliation bill. If Republicans can get a big part of their tax cuts done now, and paid for, it will make the second tax-cut bill much easier to craft within the rules.

Republicans don’t fear the backlash from a bill that will hurt lots of people, including their own voters.

Some think the simple fact of acting, and getting a policy victory, will help. Others may actually believe that the bill will work—hard as that is to believe. But the ideological view that cutting government magically brings freedom and prosperity and good health is strong among many Republicans in Congress. Nonetheless, the more rational or pragmatic ones know that this bill will hurt a lot of people, with a heavier concentration among the white working-class voters that are a mainstay of the current GOP. So why no fear? For one thing, the large tax cuts for the ultra-rich may guarantee that the web of billionaires contributing huge sums to 501(c)4s and other entities to help elect Republicans will double down. In the special election in Georgia’s sixth district, Democrat Jon Ossoff collected a mind-boggling sum for his campaign from small donors; if Karen Handel had not been able to match that with a flood of independent ads financed by big money, we might have seen a different outcome.

For another, with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court instead of Merrick Garland, states under GOP control and possibly even Congress will pass more and more draconian voter suppression laws (New Hampshire just joined the ranks) that will get a much more favorable treatment down the road. They will be aided by Trump’s outrageous new commission on voting, co-chaired by the king of voter suppression, Kris Kobach and including an all-star list of other voter suppressors, which is already intimidating voters. Money and voter suppression laws could well enable Republicans, even if this disaster of a bill passes, to keep control of both houses at least until 2020—and during that time, they can do even more to tilt the campaign finance system and narrow the electorate to their advantage.

Put it all together, and what emerges is a truly disturbing picture of a failed legislative process built on a deep distortion of representative democracy. A thoroughly partisan, ill-conceived and ill-considered bill, slapped together without the input of experts or stakeholders, done not to improve the health care system but to aid plutocrats, crafted in a fashion that will hurt millions and millions of Americans, by lawmakers doing whatever they can to avoid interacting with their own constituents. Dismaying, even despicable. And worse is that so many senators who should know better, and many who do know better, will actually vote for the monstrosity—and give this illegitimate process their imprimatur.

This Bill should already be dead and while I keep hearing hopeful noises that delay works to our advantage I’m not at all sure it’s so.

The Breakfast Club (Smile)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

TWA Flight 800 explodes; Russia’s royal family executed; Disneyland opens; Nicaragua’s Somoza goes into exile; Apollo and Soyuz link up in space; Baseball’s Ty Cobb and jazz great John Coltrane die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.

Phyllis Diller July 17, 1917

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Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné

Elric is a weak, wasted albino, product of at least a millenia of inbreeding. His febrile Empire clings to illusions of past grandeur, the inconsistent favor of the Chaos Lords, and half remembered remnants of once puissant magic Elric is too anemic to perform unaided by drugs.

The only thing that gives him power is his mystical sword, Stormbringer. Capable of slaying thousands with a scratch it consumes their souls and feeds part of that energy to Elric.

He’s also involved in an incestuous love triangle with his cousin Cymoril and her brother Yyrkoon.

Elric is not very happy so he makes the incredibly logical (as in earth shatteringly stupid) decision to go off adventuring leaving Yyrkoon as regent and Cymoril in his care. Of course Yyrkoon usurps him, why not?

So Elric recruits an invasion fleet and since he knows all the secret defenses and passwords pulls a Baltar. Everthing is going just swimmingly when, in a climactic encounter with Yyrkoon, he “accidentally” kills Cymoril and Stormbringer eats her soul. I put quotes around it because Stormbringer has bad habits like that.

Naturally he’s a little pissed off and crazed by this and he makes another stunningly intelligent choice- release the Imperial Dragons and burn everthing to the ground, Capital City (Immyr for the trivia inclined) and his invasion fleet and allies alike.

After this he’s pretty well hated by just about everybody, Melnibonéan survivors for the obvious reasons and his former associates because he betrayed them too. Elric is a very dangerous person to be around whether you like him or not since Stormbringer kills enemies sure, but it also, indeed especially, has a taste for his friends and companions. In the end Stormbringer devours Moonglum of Elwher, his most steadfast and loyal comrade, Zarozinia, the true love of his life, and Elric himself. At that he dies in failure, his quest accomplished by another Champion.

ek, this is even obscurer than Game of Thrones and also more depressing. Why aren’t you writing about the Red Wedding?”

Well, because this is about The Doctor. Elric is just a metaphor. Let’s talk about chips shall we?

Who are you?

Do you know like we were sayin’? About the Earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid. The first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it ‘cos everything looks like it’s standin’ still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinnin’ at 1,000 miles an hour and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour, and I can feel it. We’re fallin’ through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go… That’s who I am.

You think it’ll last forever: people and cars and concrete. But it won’t. One day it’s all gone. Even the sky. My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned, like the Earth. It’s just rocks and dust. Before its time.

What happened?

There was a war, and we lost.

A war with who? What about your people?

I’m a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left traveling on my own, ‘cos there’s no one else.

There’s me.

You’ve seen how dangerous it is — do you want to go home?

I don’t know… I want… Oh, can you smell chips?

Yeah. Yeah!

I want chips.

Me too.

Right then, before you get me back in that box, chips it is. And you can pay.

No money.

What sort of date are you? Come on, then, tight wad, chips are on me… we’ve only got five billion years ’til the shops close!

That’s who he is. Everything he touches dies, sooner or later. Four and a half Billion years, more or less, bashing away at a diamond mountain to save Clara. That didn’t quite work out. Of course he only experienced it as something less than a day. Nine hundred odd years saving Christmas on Trenzalor, every minute of that.

How many years in the Time War coming to The Moment (Bad Wolf to you) that he decides the only way to end it is by destroying Gallifrey?

Did you ever count?

Count what?

How many children there were on Gallifrey that day?

I have absolutely no idea.

How old are you now?

Uh, I don’t know, I lose track. Twelve hundred and something, I think, unless I’m lying. I can’t remember if I’m lying about my age, that’s how old I am.

Four hundred years older than me and in all that time you never even wondered how many there were. You never once counted?

Tell me, what would be the point?

Two point four seven billion!

You did count.

In the reboot of Dr. Who those have always been the storylines that interested me the most, how The Doctor comes to terms with the fact that he’s essentially a monster. To the extent the writing has been flawed in the Moffett years (yeah, yeah, massive continuity errors, forced jokes, breaking character) I think the biggest one is the abandonment of the exploration of that side of his personality. Capaldi would have been the perfect actor for it (after Eccleston) and instead he was wasted on silliness and pointless distractions like Matt Smith.

So don’t count me as someone who pines for Stephen who I think is quite adequately summed up by The Empty Hearse which basically throws its hands in the air and says to the audience, “Too complicated! You figure it out!”

But I’m not looking for a lighter, more humorous Doctor which is why I’m hopeful for the new regime of Chibnall and Whittaker. Broadchurch is not a comedy and character development is as important as it is in any serious drama like The Wire.

And if you can’t get over the fact that Whittaker is not just another White Guy (or think that’s the most important stunt casting point) you are doing a disservice to her ablity as an actor of emotional depth and range and The Doctor’s complexity as a character.

It’s not just aliens running around in cheesy rubber suits to amuse the kidlings any more, if it ever was.

Rant of the Week: Dueling Dead Presidents

Only John Oliver and Stephen Colbert stage a battle of insults between two dead presidents, Warren G. Harding and Zachary Taylor, using their wax statues. After agreeing to disagree, the statues kiss and make up.

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