December 6, 2012 archive

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Congressional Game of Chicken: Fixing Filibuster, Part III

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Ready or not, here it comes, filibuster reform. Or so says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

WASHINGTON — Keeping with his post-election pledge to reform the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday proffered that changes to the rules of the upper chamber will be made, leaving it up to Republicans if they would like to participate. [..]

“There are discussions going on now [over filibuster reform], but I want to tell everybody here. I’m happy I’ve had a number of Republicans come to me, a few Democrats,” Reid told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press availability. “We’re going to change the rules. We cannot continue in this way. I hope we can get something that the Republicans will work with us on.”

“But it won’t be a handshake,” he added. “We tried that last time. It didn’t work.” [..]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly slammed Democratic efforts to reform the filibuster, was unmoved by Reid’s statement.

“Well, there is growing Democratic unease with breaking the rules to change the rules,” McConnell said later Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I think it will be very difficult for that to come about. I think it will be bad for the Senate.”

McConnell added that in accordance with Senate rules, such an effort would require a 67-vote majority, and that Reid’s approach to make the changes with a simple 51-vote majority — a procedure that has been labeled a “nuclear option” by its opponents — would be “bad for the institution, bad for the country.”

It’s only breaking the rules if the other side does it. Otherwise it is perfectly within the rules on the first day of the new congress.

Sal Gentile, a staff member for MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, writes:

If President Obama wants to get anything done in his second term, Democrats in the Senate will have to overcome one major obstacle: the filibuster.

In the last four years, Republicans have used the filibuster to prevent landmark pieces of legislation-such as the DREAM Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act and additional measures to stimulate the economy-from even reaching the floor for debate, let alone a vote. Republicans have shattered previous records for filibuster use, and the share of bills introduced in the Senate that have been passed has reached an all-time low. [..]

The filibuster has mutated over the years from a quirk of the Senate rules and an obscure procedural instrument-known mostly for so-called “lone wolf” filibusters like the one from the iconic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – to a routine impediment to legislative progress, a bludgeon used by the Republican minority to quash virtually any attempt by Democrats to govern. [..]

The proposed changes, which have the strong backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and nearly 51 Democratic senators, are also broadly endorsed by a wide range of Constitutional scholars and the public at large. A new Huffington Post/YouGov poll released Friday found that 65% of Americans favor tweaking the rules to require senators to debate a bill on the floor if they wish to block it from proceeding.

Even the man responsible for enforcing and administering the rules of the Senate endorsed some of the changes. In an interview on Up w/ Chris Hayes Saturday, Alan Frumin, who served as the parliamentarian of the Senate for nearly two decades until he retired last year, said he supported changes that would forbid senators from filibustering bills before they reach the floor for debate. Frumin also said he favored changes that would bar senators from blocking bills once those bills have passed the Senate and are ready to move to a conference committee with the House. [..]

The filibuster is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, and many of the Founders argued forcefully against proposals that would have required more than 51 votes to pass legislation in the Senate. In 1788, for example, James Madison, known as the ‘Father of the Constitution,” wrote in Federalist No. 58 that requiring a supermajority in the Senate would “reverse” the “fundamental principle of free government.” Such a policy would empower special interests and make government “oligarchic,” Madison said.

“An interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices,” Madison wrote, rather prophetically. “Or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a leading advocate of filibuster reform, joined Up host, Chris Hayes for a discussion on the prospects of filibuster reform in the Senate. Adding the views are panel guests Alan Frumin, former Senate Parliamentarian and author of  “Riddicks Senate Procedure;” Akhil Amar, Yale Law School professor and author of “America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By;” Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, MSNBC contributor, senior analyst at Latino Decisions and fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin; and Richard Arenberg, co-author of “Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate.”

Busting the Filibuster


Countdown to Zombie Apocalypse.  Originally posted September 1, 2011.

Slick Hare

On This Day In History December 6

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 6 is the 340th day of the year (341st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 25 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1884, the Washington Monument is completed.

In Washington, D.C., workers place a nine-inch aluminum pyramid atop a tower of white marble, completing the construction of an impressive monument to the city’s namesake and the nation’s first president, George Washington.  As early as 1783, the infant U.S. Congress decided that a statue of George Washington, the great Revolutionary War general, should be placed near the site of the new Congressional building, wherever it might be. After then-President Washington asked him to lay out a new federal capital on the Potomac River in 1791, architect Pierre L’Enfant left a place for the statue at the western end of the sweeping National Mall (near the monument’s present location).

The Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate the first U.S. president, General George Washington. The monument, made of marble, granite, and sandstone, is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing 555 feet 5 1/8 inches (169.294 m). There are taller monumental columns, but they are neither all stone nor true obelisks. It is also the tallest structure in Washington D.C.. It was designed by Robert Mills, an architect of the 1840s. The actual construction of the monument began in 1848 but was not completed until 1884, almost 30 years after the architect’s death. This hiatus in construction happened because of co-option by the Know Nothing party, a lack of funds, and the intervention of the American Civil War. A difference in shading of the marble, visible approximately 150 feet (46 m or 27%) up, shows where construction was halted for a number of years. The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848; the capstone was set on December 6, 1884, and the completed monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885. It officially opened October 9, 1888. Upon completion, it became the world’s tallest structure, a title previously held by the Cologne Cathedral. The monument held this designation until 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris, France. The monument stands due east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

chris floyd

Chris Floyd is “re-orienting,” leaving blogspace, which is both a personal and public blow.  He has been a shard of glass refracting light in our increasingly dismal, pant-hooping world.  Everything he ever wrote was a diamond bullet in your brain, without violence or bloodshed.  Mere words.  A simple act of compassion.  I hope we could say that about ourselves, but allow my doubt.  

He leaves a burning sword.  

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Ogle 13

Koch II

Inside The Koch Empire: How The Brothers Plan To Reshape America

Daniel Fisher, Forbes

12/05/2012 @ 11:57AM

Charles’ many critics on the left-including the President of the United States-accuse him of accumulating too much power and using it to promote his own economic interests through a network of secretive organizations they call the “Kochtopus.” Ironically, the Koch brothers believe they’re fighting against power, at least in the political realm. For the Kochs the real power is central government, which can tax entire industries into oblivion, force a citizen to buy health insurance and bring mighty corporations like Koch Industries to heel.

“Most power is power to coerce somebody,” says Charles, in a voice that sounds like Jimmy Stewart with a Kansas twang. “We don’t have the power to coerce anybody.”

The goal has always been, Charles says, “true democracy,” where people “can run their own lives and choose what they want to buy, choose how to spend their money.”

In the mid-1970s their business of changing minds got more formal when Charles cofounded what became the Cato Institute, the first major libertarian think tank. Based in Washington, it has 120 employees devoted to promoting property rights, educational choice and economic freedom. In 1978 the brothers helped found-and still fund-George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the go-to academy for deregulation; they have funded the Federalist Society, which shapes conservative judicial thinking; the pro-market Heritage Foundation; a California-based center skeptical of human-driven climate change; and many other institutions.

All of these organizations, unknown to 99% of the population, and their common source of support, unknown to most of the rest, have provided the grist for conservative thinking since Reagan. It’s a measure of Koch’s success that 40 years after Richard Nixon was stumping for national health insurance, Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand-tinged economics are just a little right of center. That the Supreme Court’s conservative majority led by Chief Justice John Roberts has issued a number of pro-property rights, anti-government decisions in recent years that read like they came straight out of a Federalist Society position paper. That when George W. Bush sought a watchdog on regulation costs, he appointed a top Mercatus executive. And none of this was accidental-it just took millions of dollars over decades of time.

Douthat is right!

The current budgetary debate (fiscal cliff, austerity bomb, whatever) is focused on the Obama Administration’s apparent insistence that they are going to force the Republicans to eat crow and publicly humble themselves by accepting rate increases on the wealthiest 2%.

As if this were some kind of great progressive liberal victory.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth.  It would be a Bob McNamara body count kind of victory that wins neither hearts nor minds or even holds any ground.

The Truly Grand Bargain

By DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times

Published: December 3, 2012

This is a big political concession, but it’s not much of an economic one. President Obama needs rate increases to show the liberals he has won a “victory,” but the fact is that raising revenue by raising rates is not that much worse for the economy than raising revenue by closing loopholes, which Republicans have already conceded.

In return, Republicans should also ask for some medium-size entitlement cuts as part of the fiscal cliff down payment.

Besides, the inevitable package would please Republicans. The House would pass a conservative bill. The Senate would pass a center-left bill. The compromise between the two would be center-right.

It’s pointless to cut a short-term deal if entitlement programs are still structured to bankrupt our children. Republicans and Democrats could make 2013 the year of the truly Grand Bargain.

NYT’s Douthat Dead Wrong on Social Security

by Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The problem here is that we are not condemned to an era of “mass unemployment, mediocre wage growth and weak mobility.” This has been the outcome of inept macroeconomic policy and trade and regulatory policies that were designed to redistribute income from those at the middle and bottom to the top. Most people would look to reverse these policies rather than eliminate social insurance.

The implication of this comment, that we would somehow be able to make up substantial funding shortfalls from cutting taxes on low and middle income people by taxing the wealthy more also is not very plausible. Given the enormous political power of the “job creators” (as demonstrated by the fact that people are not laughed out of town for using this term), it is unlikely that substantially more money will be raised from the wealthy to pay for Social Security.

Sorry Dr. Baker, Ross Douthat is exactly right.

Our Enemy, the Payroll Tax

By ROSS DOUTHAT, The New York Times

Published: November 24, 2012

Franklin Roosevelt effectively disguised Social Security as a pay-as-you-go system, even though the program actually redistributes from rich to poor and young to old. That disguise has helped keep Social Security sacrosanct – hailed by Democrats because it protects the poor and backed by Republicans as a reward for steady work.

All of the components of a sensible Social Security reform – means-testing for wealthier beneficiaries, changing the way benefits adjust for inflation, a slow increase in the retirement age – become easier if the program is treated as normal safety-net spending rather than an untouchable entitlement with a dedicated funding stream.

By cutting the tax rate and promising to make up the difference out of general revenue, the payroll tax holiday took a big step in this direction – and letting it expire would take a big step back. Republicans have every reason to recognize this reality: their long-term size-of-government goals require Social Security reform, and the illusions fostered by the payroll tax are an obstacle – originally created by their political enemies! – to any restraint in what the program spends.

In Which Ross Douthat Examines Social Security

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

11/26/2012 at 1:30PM

Ross Cardinal Douthat yesterday decided that the greedy olds are ripping him off, and he and Chris Van Hollen are not going to take it any more. Or something. In doing so, he masterfully delineated the actual case that conservatives have been making against Social Security since the moment it passed in 1933 – namely, that the biggest problem with the program is that it, you know, really works.

Well, we certainly can’t have that. I also would point out that Social Security didn’t “promise post-retirement returns,” it delivered them, every last dime of them, and it pretty much eliminated abject elderly poverty in this country, which I guess is something we can’t have, either.

Unless we all get sold out, and the government starts listening to the likes of Ross Douthat, Social Security recipients pretty much get everything that they put into the system while they were working. The CBO says the trust fund is solvent through 2038, and some minor tweaks – like lifting the cap, which Young Master Douthat declines to mention – we can push the event horizon even deeper into the future.

The payroll tax cut was intended to be a short-term stimulus, something that, in other guises – say, like rebuilding bridges or repairing dams – His Eminence would be expected to oppose. There were those of us who pointed out that extending it would lead inevitably to some charlatan using it as a wedge to take a hack at the program itself.

But, eventually, we get around to what’s really going on. Social Security is a government program that works. It is a government program that people like.

Nope, the real problem is that President Obama, his Administration, and the institutional Democratic Party agree with Ross Douthat.

The Real Problem with Simpson and Bowles

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

11/28/2012 at 11:42AM

The commission crashed and burned, although you would never know it from the cargo cult that has sprung up around it within our political elites. It produced a “plan” that so many members of the commission hated that the “plan” never really was submitted to Congress. Every single Republican on the commission walked away from it. It was a thoroughly rotten deal for poor people and for the middle class, the living embodiment of Alan Simpson’s obvious contempt for everyone who is not him, as a number of progressive politicians pointed out. Undaunted, Simpson and Bowles pretended that their “plan” actually was a working document. It was a remarkable act of political faith-healing and, over the past couple of years, the “plan” that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone of the pitch for “bipartisan” “compromise. Senator Richard Durbin,supposedly one of the lead progressive voices in the Senate, can’t shut up about the bloody thing.

Only in the funhouse mirror that is the Beltway media are these two guys an “improbable buddy act.” Only in that same mirror are they an “odd couple.” (And the fact that “business groups” pay them 40-grand a pop proves nothing except the fact the two of them shouldn’t be trusted as far as you can throw Lloyd Blankfein’s desk.) Both of them are tools of the financial power that has come to be the ruination of the nation’s economy and is more than halfway toward ruining the nation’s democracy as well. For example, the nation’s tattered social safety net is in as much danger from the two of them as it is from the outright zombie-eyed granny-starver, Paul Ryan, who personally walked away from the Simpson-Bowles “plan” because not enough grannies were being starved. Bowles just wants to hand the entire social insurance system over to his financial masters. (He’s one of the masterminds behind the Fix The Debt scam by which we are supposed to believe that a passel of avaricious CEOs have the country’s best interests at heart.) The financial elites, for whom Erskine Bowles would run the Iditarod if you put him in harness, loved it, which should have been a warning to everyone. Simpson hates the people who depend on the programs. But one of them is a lot taller than the other one so – bipartisanship! The plan lives!

It is everything that has been wrong with this enterprise from the start. It is an exercise in Beltway wankery that hasn’t even bothered to pause to estimate the human cost of the deal it is seeking to foist on the American people. (And of which Alan Simpson is indecently contemptuous.) It traffics in the spurious notion that any deal with which “”both sides” are angry must be the right deal. (Can we please have an honest assessment of credibility here? If billionaires are angry because they might have to chip in some boutonniere money on April 15, and a middle-class family is angry because their 82-year old grandmother with Alzheimer’s is lying in her own filth in a substandard nursing home because of Medicare “reforms,” are we honestly saying that the anger of both sides is equally justified? Has anyone even asked that question?) It is the product of a heedless national elite so insulated from the consequences of its actions, and so coddled by a feckless national political media, that its actions are seen to have no consequences that matter once you cross the Potomac. (I’d have felt better about the whole deal if there were one nurse, one urban health-director, one social-worker on the entire commission.) The primary constituencies upon whom this “plan” will fall hardest were not even represented in its development, and they do not seem to factor in at all in the effort to implement it. The whole debate is taking place in a bell jar of unreality. Only there could Simpson and Bowles be seen as honest brokers, and only there could their “plan” be seen as anything except a new front in the steady looting of the national wealth, a “compromise” between lions and sheep.

How Obama Tried to Sell Out Liberalism in 2011

By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

3/19/12 at 6:21 PM

Last summer, President Obama desperately attempted to forge a long-term deficit reduction deal with Congressional Republicans. The notion that he could get the House GOP to accept any remotely balanced agreement was preposterous and doomed from the start, but Obama responded to the increasingly obvious reality by reducing his demands of the Republicans to virtually nothing.

The Washington Post has a long narrative report about the negotiations between Obama and the House Republicans. The narrative frame of the Post’s account is that Obama blew the potential deal at the last minute. That’s a story that people close to Obama’s fired chief of staff, Bill Daley, have been peddling for a long time. But that conclusion is utterly belied by the facts in the Post’s own account. But let’s put that aside for now, because the facts in the Post’s account support a different and far more disturbing conclusion: Obama was even more desperate to cut a deal than previously believed – dangerously desperate, in fact.

It has previously been reported that Obama had offered to John Boehner to make a series of cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and the domestic budget, to reduce top-end tax rates, and to prevent the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, in return for increasing tax revenue (over current tax levels) by about $800 billion over ten years. That is a pitiful sum of new revenue, less than half as much as recommended by deficit proposals by Bowles-Simpson, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and other bipartisan worthies.

The obvious reality is that there never has been any way to get House Republicans to agree to a balanced deficit deal. Even the capitulation Obama offered – $800 billion in semi-imaginary revenue, all raised from the non-rich – was too much for them to agree to. Locking in that low level of revenue would have required huge cuts in spending, making a decent liberal vision of government impossible. The Post is making the case that there was a potential deal, and Obama blew it by failing to properly handle the easily-spooked Republican caucus. What the story actually shows is that Obama’s disastrous weakness in the summer of 2011 went further toward undermining liberalism than anybody previously knew.

Bargaining Among Thieves, Thugs, Cheats, Liars and Naïfs

By: masaccio, Firedog Lake

Sunday November 25, 2012 10:40 am

Obama thinks the election will encourage the Republicans to act like human beings and remember the needs of their constituents. And they will. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner can be counted on to carry the water of their billionaire constituents and screw the rest of the country. The hyper-rich may have lost the presidency, but their serving-men will fight to destroy Obama’s second term even harder than they did his first, and if the country goes into a second recession, well that’s too bad. The thieves who steal money from every human on the planet want tax cuts, dammit, and they don’t want their precious corporations to pay taxes, dammit, and the odious twins will do their damnedest to accomplish the wishes of their masters.

Across the aisle there are plenty of lame duck Blue Dog Democrats who were always willing to dishonor the legacy of the Democratic Party and screw their constituents in search of some mythical middle ground between themselves and the true believers on the back bench of the Crazy Party.

Obama spent his first term ignoring the people who elected him, especially progressive activists, the professional left, but also all of the members of his coalition who can’t live decent lives without Social Security and Medicare. So, when Grand Bargain I, the Betrayal, came out, it did very badly with Obama’s base. There was a lot of anger and hostility among the professional left, and a lot of it carried over to that base. No one was sorry to see Grand Bargain I pulled from the stores to be replaced by the laughable Supercommittee/Fiscal Cliff.

Fresh off his electoral victory, Obama called in the leaders of groups that supported him and asked them to help him in the introduction of Grand Bargain II, Revenge on the Old. Of course, he didn’t exactly ask them to sign on to cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Instead, he asked them to carry the message that taxes on the rich should be increased. Practically every sane American thinks that the first step in dealing with the deficit is to hike taxes on the richest among us, the people who caused the Great Crash, who sucked up all the benefits from government action to deal with it, and whose outsized influence kept the government from lifting a finger to help millions of homeowners. So these leaders signed up for this term’s version of the Veal Pen.

The worst part of this idiot bargaining is that the President is really worried about getting the Republicans to actually do the deed. In Grand Bargain I, the Republicans were supposed to pretend to accept tax hikes, none of which were specified. That was intolerable to the worst of the crazies, and Boehner couldn’t deliver the votes. This time, the President is looking for some other idiotic sop to throw to the nutcases to conceal their defeat on the tax hike issue.

How Obamacare Came To The Fiscal Cliff

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

11/23/2012 at 12:15PM

Wait. Stop. The president, and the congressional Democrats, are under no affirmative obligation to make John Boehner’s life easier just because he’s got a caucus full of more nuts than a Wal-Mart fruitcake. The president, and the congressional Democrats, are under no affirmative obligation to arrange for John Boehner’s mellow to stay unharshed just because he’s dependent upon a political “base” that went to the monkeyhouse 30 years ago, pitched a tent, and never left. John Boehner’s political problems are John Boehner’s political problems. They’re not the country’s to solve, and certainly not the president’s, either. Let him solve them himself. The popular speculation is that this is all just political posturing, and sop-tossing, and ass-covering. I am less sanguine. In this atmosphere, in which the entire discussion is taking place behind closed doors and in which the general welfare of most Americans seems to be little more than a side issue, empty rhetoric has a way of becoming empirical political fact.

If you stand for nothing, you will stand for anything and that includes throwing your own babies under the bus.

Sad Zappadan

Brubeck plays Zappa.

Dave Brubeck, Who Helped Put Jazz Back in Vogue, Dies at 91

By BEN RATLIFF, The New York Times

Published: December 5, 2012

When he was 14, a laundryman who led a dance band encouraged him to perform in public, at Lions Club gatherings and Western-swing dances; he was paid $8 for playing from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., with a one-hour break. But until he went to college he was an aspiring rancher, not an aspiring musician.

At the College of the Pacific, near Stockton, he first studied to be a veterinarian but switched to music after a year. It was there that he learned about 20th-century culture and read about Freud, Marx and serial music; it was also there that he met Iola Whitlock, a fellow student, who became his wife in 1942.

In 1958, as part of a State Department program that brought jazz as an offer of good will during the cold war, his quartet traveled in the Middle East and India, and Mr. Brubeck became intrigued by musical languages that didn’t stick to 4/4 time – what he called “march-style jazz,” the meter that had been the music’s bedrock. The result was the album “Time Out,” recorded in 1959. With the hits “Take Five” (composed by Mr. Desmond in 5/4 meter and prominently featuring the quartet’s gifted drummer, Joe Morello) and “Blue Rondo à la Turk” (composed by Mr. Brubeck in 9/8), the album propelled Mr. Brubeck onto the pop charts.

When Mr. Brubeck’s quartet broke up in 1967, after 17 years, he spent more time with his family and followed new paths. In 1969 he composed “Elemental” (subtitled “Concerto for Anyone Who Can Afford an Orchestra”), a concerto grosso for 45-piece ensemble. He later wrote an oratorio and four cantatas, a mass, two ballets and works for jazz combo with orchestra. Most of his commissioned pieces from the late ’60s on were classical works, many had religious or social themes, and many were collaborations with his wife.

As a composer, Mr. Brubeck used jazz to address religious themes and to bridge social and political divides. His cantata “The Gates of Justice,” from 1969, dealt with blacks and Jews in America; another cantata, “Truth Is Fallen” (1972), lamented the killing of student protesters at Kent State University in 1970, with a score including orchestra, electric guitars and police sirens.

American jazz pianist and composer who annoyed the purists by finding global fame

John Fordham, The Guardian

Wednesday 5 December 2012 13.49 EST

Unlike Goodman and his college audience triumphs of the 1930s, Brubeck discovered his jazz in the postwar world – in a very different climate, which initiated the unusual chemistry of his music by a very different route. Jazz, pop and dancing were synonymous in the 30s. But Brubeck emerged a decade later, after the more cerebral and exploratory modernist idiom of bebop had profoundly influenced the music.

But this success had not come without reservations in the jazz world. Brubeck was on the wrong side of the purists almost as soon as his discs started to become hits – for what were seen by some as three betrayals. First, and maybe worst, he made money, which was a form of notoriety usually regarded as a sell-out by hardline hipsters. Second, his conspicuously complex tempos paraded cleverness and a fondness for European classical devices at a time when black American jazz was dumping much of its formal baggage, and fiery, impassioned and unpredictable improvisers such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane were on the rise. Third, he was portrayed by the cognoscenti as wasting the talents of a truly great improviser in Desmond, his lyrical and delicate alto saxophonist.

All his life, Brubeck continued to regard himself as “a composer who plays the piano”. Though much was made of his piano-playing by his early fans, Brubeck’s solos relied heavily on riff-like block chords and rather relentless dynamics. They became more varied and unpredictable in the later stages of his career and remained so into his 80s. But Brubeck’s real achievement was to blend European compositional ideas, very demanding rhythmic structures, jazz song-forms and improvisation in expressive and accessible ways. His son Chris was to tell the Guardian, “when I hear Chorale, it reminds me of the very best Aaron Copland, something like Appalachian Spring. There’s a sort of American honesty to it.”

Dave Brubeck, worldwide ambassador of jazz, dies at 91

By Matt Schudel, Washington Post

Wednesday, December 5, 12:23 PM

His father was a champion rodeo roper, and his mother was a conservatory-trained pianist who had studied in London with Dame Myra Hess, a concert star. She gave her three sons a surprisingly advanced musical education, and Mr. Brubeck’s two older brothers, Henry and Howard, became music teachers and composers.

Because of early eyesight problems, Mr. Brubeck always had difficulty reading musical notation. He compensated by learning to improvise and to play by ear, which served him well in jazz.

During World War II, Mr. Brubeck was pulled from the ranks of an infantry unit by an Army colonel, who asked him to start a jazz band to entertain troops on the front lines. The group he formed was perhaps the only integrated musical unit in the military during the war.

After the war, Mr. Brubeck did graduate work at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., with Milhaud and wrote and performed avant-garde jazz. Based in San Francisco early in his career, he worked for low pay and scrounged for dented cans of food that he could buy at a discount.

“We lived in a tin, corrugated one-room shack with no windows,” he told The Post in 2008. “We were so broke, God almighty.”

“You could hardly find a less likely formula for popularity,” Gioia, the author of “West Coast Jazz,” wrote in an e-mail. “Brubeck, by all definitions, was a fringe within a fringe. Despite all this, he managed to achieve a rare degree of fame and popularity. How did he pull this off? Mostly through the sheer brilliance and audacity of his musical vision.”

But then, they’re always sad.

Just Brubeck

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