Out Of The Blue & Into The Black: Sad Farewells & A Moment For Schacht

They give you this, but they gave us Schacht.

Hi there friends of the Emptywheel blog. The collective lost another longtime voice.

It’s better to burn out
than it is to rust
The king is gone
but he’s not forgotten.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.

Our friend Dr. Robert Schacht. Knew him for years online, and then met him personally at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in a bar. Wow. One smart and fun human.

He never burned out, he never came to rust. Bob Schacht will never fade away.

Thank you Bob Schacht.

Vaya con dios and Aloha.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
35 replies
  1. lefty665 says:

    Regrets and sympathy to Bob’s family. His posts here were a wonderful mixture of knowledge and insight. They sure were part of what kept me coming back.

    With each door that closes another opens. You’ve been cultivating a good farm team here at EW. Lets see what they can do. Us old farts are fading slowly away.

    Happy New Year to ew, bmaz, jim, rayne, et al. It’s a wonderful group. Go for it in ’13, the heights are steeper and will take vigor to scale.

  2. Jim White says:

    Damn. Bob was such a caring and informed presence. I will miss him greatly, but somehow I’m guessing he and Mary are setting some folks right in their new location.

  3. bmaz says:

    @Rayne: Me too. I hope Jim is right and there is some lounge somewhere where Bob and Mary meet up and start giving people a piece of their minds. And you just know they would.

    By the way, here is kind of an interesting paper Bob did that I stumbled into last night.

  4. KWinIA says:

    @bmaz: It is an interesting paper. He had a deep understanding of the need to form a relationship with the individual and the community being studied in order to receive valid data and to understand its meaning.

  5. Katie Jensen (wavpeac) says:

    A long time ago, when I was not ready to face my life, I looked for an online alanon meeting. I found one. The rule was that you could participate online but you were greatly encouraged to seek meetings live and in person. One of the things that I noticed about participating in that group, and also on these blogs, is that you DO get to know one another.

    People who have never been part of online communities like this one, don’t understand that these are real relationships. We learn from one another in many ways besides what we say. We learn about each other in how we say it, how consistent our shares are, the way we share with each other, when we share, when we drop in, when we detach. There are very real rhythms to online relationships. No, we don’t know all the secrets that we would know if we lived together in a commune, however, even then we don’t always know all of one another. In my opinion. Human being learn what they need to know in a variety of ways. There is a form of intimacy that does develop on line. I wonder in fact, how our radar online matches up with our radar when live with one another. I bet they are less far apart than people might predict.

    For me, the world feels smaller, kinder. I feel so much less alone in the world than I used to before discovering blogs and online relationships. I know that psychologists have all kinds of negative stuff to say and there is a down side to everything. The computer is not my life nor does it replace my relationships with family. But I am who I am online…as well as off line. As I imagine most of you are as well.

    When we lose someone like Bob or Mary it really touches me profoundly. Only because it’s that moment in time when I become aware of how they have influenced me or I realize the full extent of my connection with that person. Where I realize that I “knew” them, their thoughts, their philosophies, even a tad about where they live, how they treated me on line, how they think.

    Real connections, are not a black and white occurrences. They happen on a continuum. I will miss Bob and I still ache for missing Mary sometimes when I come to the blog and look so forward to reading the comments. The grief is real. These relationships are real.

    I love you people. Happy New Year.

  6. jclausen says:

    RIP Dr. Bob. You contributed a great deal to the world and for this community. I shall miss your voice.

  7. phred says:

    bmaz, do you happen to have a link to an obituary? I would love to read it and see if there is an address where I can send his family a card.

    Thinking of our little community here, I have a story to tell about Bob…

    Several years ago now, I spent Christmas with my elderly parents in Madison. Christmas dinner was served in the lovely dining room of the senior retirement center where my folks lived. Mom was in the nursing home portion of the facility and Dad was in the independent living portion. It was a really nice place and the arrangement worked out very well for them. At any rate, after our meal, Dad spotted an old friend of his and he wanted to introduce us. He and Alice had been active in their churches back in the day and had worked together on several community projects. Alice was having dinner with her son, a very nice man wearing a Hawaiian shirt (that is a fashion statement that stands out in Wisconsin at Christmas time). We chatted a bit and went off to our respective family gatherings.

    After the holidays, here at Emptywheel, Bob Schacht made a comment about visiting his family in Madison and all of a sudden I realized that a man I had known for years on-line, was the same man whose mother my father had known well and admired much, and that I had met them both in person. Through EW, we got in touch via email and exchanged emails occasionally, often in reference to our folks.

    I share this story in part because it is a great small world story, but also because of the inter-generational interconnections of it. I’m often discouraged by the depressing state of our political affairs, but then I think about the fact that my parents and Bob’s parents worked to make the world a better place in their time, just as Bob and I (and the rest of us here) have been working to make it better in ours. The going may be slow and setbacks seem more prevalent than successes, yet when I consider the civil rights successes of my parents era and improvements in our own time of LGBT acceptance, one cannot deny that social progress continues.

    That cheers me up considerably and keeps me going. I will very much miss Bob. Like Mary, we lost him much too soon. I hope his family reads this post and all of the comments and sees what a contribution he made to this community.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you Bob, and give you peace.

  8. Bay State Librul says:

    I know Bob liked sports and was a regular on the trash scene… he will be missed

    From Philip Theibert (Baseball Bard)


    In baseball
    they study video
    to see
    what the pitcher
    will throw
    But in life
    there are so many curve balls
    cancer, heart attacks, broken hearts
    accidents, children, lovers, old age
    luck – bad and good
    and what video can capture
    all of that?

  9. bmaz says:

    On a lighter note – kind of – it turns out Oompa Loompas are violent

    Police are hunting two men dressed as ‘Oompa Loompa’ characters who, along with two other people, attacked a man in a city centre.

    The 28-year-old victim suffered cuts to his face, nose and lip, as well as two black eyes, after being confronted by the pair, posing as the fictional chocolate factory workers, as he left a kebab house in Norwich.

    The ‘Oompa Loompas’, accompanied by a man and a woman not wearing fancy dress, attacked the man in the early hours of Thursday on Prince of Wales Road, officers said.

  10. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    Thanks, bmaz. This certainly comes as a shock. “Bob in AZ” was a sensitive, intelligent, caring man, the kind of participant in blog discussions like this that took a post and applied a passion that helped turn it into an intervention in the world. He was someone who was supportive of me in my work over at FDL, and I read his posts, as I had Mary’s (whose death I only discovered many weeks after the event because I had been somewhat “dark” for awhile), with something like happiness. It was an online “encounter” to be sure, but one much more meaningful than many I might have in the world as I experience it.

    My best to any of Bob’s friends or family who happen to read this. He was a real mensch. One of the good guys. He will be sorely missed.

  11. rosalind says:

    best part of last Vegas NN was getting to meet Bob and his lovely wife in person. i had hoped his absence in the threads was due to blog-burn out and he was off recharging. when he reappeared just a while ago i was hoping he was back to stay.

    too, too sad.

  12. Dawn Lyons says:

    So many funerals this year, I guess it means thtat I am gettingt old.

    No man is an island,
    Entire of itself.
    Each is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thine own
    Or of thine friend’s were.
    Each man’s death diminishes me,
    For I am involved in mankind.
    Therefore, send not to know
    For whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.

  13. JohnLopresti says:

    Condolences to Bob’s family.

    That paper of Bob’s is interesting, if difficult to understand from a perspective of Bob’s online writings at EW’s site. I once took one of the sorts of jobs best left to indigenous people, though based on some linguistics work I had done; and I held the post only 1-2 years; during that time, however, I discovered one of the youthful leaders of the organization continued working on a M.S. degree at Univ. of CA, San Francisco’s med school campus.

    At first we held conceptual conversations about the schedule she was in to produce the thesis for the MS and then graduate that spring. Soon, it became clear that her studies, in addition to her post at the organization where I, too, was employed, was a lot more crunch-time than it seemed. She had a resistance to computer technology. She had grown up in a border town with little to polarize her toward emigrating to the US, but she did so as a child, and subsequently enjoyed a colorful career.

    Somewhere, I picture Bob Schacht’s career as having ample supply of chromatism, too.

    The mostly Native American lady with whom I read psychiatric literature about Native American behavioral matters for XA’s MS thesis..the Native American’s initials were “XA”, earned her degree; but she shielded me from reading one chapter in the thesis, as too spiritually sensitive to permit a non-Native person to read. At least, that’s how it began in the 90s. Maybe she has changed her rules of preference now twenty years later.

    Anthropology is an interesting abstraction. I liked some of Bob’s professional commentary about his own academic background, too. The document bmaz linked includes five titles with Bob’s authorship.
    Bob also said he played bass in a local band. I wonder if he left a soundtrack somewhere?

  14. thatvisionthing says:

    Oh no. Tears. And I don’t think I even knew Bob as well as you all do. But he was so himself, so specific, so grounded in here and now. Bob. in AZ. or HI. or CA. If he went somewhere else, his sig would say so. What he thought, he said. Wherever Bob was, he told you. Like a lighthouse. How sad for us to lose a lighthouse.

  15. orionATL says:

    damn! is this death thing catching?

    woven into several of bob’s comments here was the statement that commenting at emptywheel (and elsewhere i’m sure) was his way of participating more fully in our political system. he wanted to be, worked to be, and became a outspeaking citizen – and, clearly by nature, he was a kind and caring outspeaking citizen.

    i greatly admired bob’s effort.

  16. Kathryn in MA says:

    Gosh, I’ve been reading Bob since Bob in Hi and loved him and the community everyone has built. I will miss his fonts.
    wevpeac, after reading your lovely description of how ties are built, i resolve to speak up more. i have taken the risky step of using biomass to heat house and not fossil fuel, and the process was a trifle overwhelming, but am happy to report, is working out. More later.

  17. CTuttle says:

    Aloha, bmaz and all…! I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Bob and his lovely wife here in Hilo town, the first pup I’d met up with…! He was a very pleasant gentleman…! We’ve lost a real gent…! My condolences to his wife and family…! 8-(

  18. pdaly says:

    My condolences to Bob’s wife and family.

    Thanks for informing us, bmaz.

    When reading the comments in the Christmas Eve thread I realized it was missing a comment from Bob. I noticed it had been a while since I’d last seen him post and I know he normally would have left a message on a thread like that if he could.

    I remember the excitement Bob communicated in his posts that he made while attending the Netroots Nation 2010 in Las Vegas. I enjoyed reading his encounters with fellow bloggers and commenters.

    Here’s one of his observations of Marcy. I remember it clearly as if he typed it yesterday:

    “For all youse guys at home, you have no idea what a treasure we have in Marcy. I was at this session, too, and to me it looked like Marcy was just *listening*. Unbeknownst to me, Marcy was live-blogging the whole time! She not only heard more/better than me, but was sharing it all with you at the same time! Extraordinary. She was across the aisle, so I couldn’t see her flying fingers at work.

    Bob in AZ (now in NV)
    I hope to see all you firepups live and in color tomorrow. Meanwhile, look for me with the light-colored safari jacket and black briefcase with shoulder strap, and introduce yourselves! I want to see your faces!”

    I love his “(and now NV)” addendum to his name. You are right, [email protected]!

    Here’s Bob the next day July 24, 2010:

    “I’m at the Netroots Nation conference, at a session chaired by Marcy Wheeler on Closing Gitmo, and tracked here by Rayne, who I finally had the pleasure of meeting. Before the seesion started, I went up to the table of panelists, and, after being introduced to Rep. Nadler by Marcy, I impetuously asked him if we still had a Constitution, or words to that effect. He gave me a thoughtful answer. After a moment of reflection, he said that our country does not do very well with such issues in wartime– He spoke about the Alien & Sedition Act around WW-I, and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WW-II. Then I asked him if this “war” would ever end, and he assured me that it would.

    What that tells me is that our efforts, as a group, will be futile until our wars end. And they will not end by conventional means– e.g. a treaty, but by a unilateral declaration by Obama (or his successor). This suggests to me that in order to achieve our goals, we have to work to end the war.

    My preferred solution is for Obama to declare that we are not actually in a war, and that the War on Terror is impossibly defined and poorly conceived, and that therefore he is declaring an end to the so-called ‘War on Terror,’ and a beginning of the United State’s campaign against international criminal terrorism on legal grounds, as a criminal issue.

    Bob in AZ”

    You’ll be missed, Bob.

  19. orionATL says:


    what a wondrerful holiday story.

    no doubt your parents and bob’s shared a lot of values that seeped into your life and and into his and pointed you both, in time, to others who shared those values at emptywheel.

  20. 4jkb4ia says:

    I guess I don’t really have any words. I will remember Bob for his Cardinals fandom and for having given up on cynicism, but not giving up the fight, and generally being kind and generous. I will never get to tell Bob what I thought of his dangers of jaded cynicism article (a response to NN2010). It had many good points and could use that the end of every prophetic book insists on hope and encouragement. I have no idea if the Tikkun article that Bob read had the part of Jeremiah which is the Haftara for Parshas Behar in which Jeremiah redeems a relative’s plot of land, and he says to G-d, “Why am I doing this? The people are going into exile”. But G-d says: “Everything you say is true, and worse. But I will still redeem this people, and they will purchase fields and write deeds and call witnesses just as you are doing here today.” (Not literal quotes :)) The point is not so much that you widen the skirts of light by desiring what is perfectly good, even if you don’t know what it is, but that you cannot see what is completely good now but you do the things that will have to be part of it. I think that is a good statement of what Bob stood for.

  21. 4jkb4ia says:

    @Katie Jensen (wavpeac):

    Hear, hear! I remember when EW made bmaz the guest blogger and said that what he brought was spiritual. What Bob, Mary, and Sara brought was spiritual. You know what they would have said but you don’t know what they would have said, and the blog is poorer because it didn’t get written.

  22. bmaz says:

    @4jkb4ia: and @Katie Jensen (wavpeac):

    I will take slight issue, in that I am not much of a spiritual kind of guy. I am far more a creature of the hard ether than the spirit.

    That said, I can say for a fact, Bob Schacht was a real man, and in person embodied the same things he projected here in our threads over the years. He was exactly who he said he was. I only hope I can live up to that same synopsis when I go.

  23. klynn says:

    I have been sad and lost for words since I read this post on the 31st. Thank you for letting us know bmaz.

    I will be forever thankful for Bob’s questions and ability to catch small details in MSM articles that would follow EW’s often scooping or detail digging on a story out there and shedding new light.

    So many times EW or bmaz started posts with, “Bobschacht asked…” I’ll try to address his question as best I can…

    I hope we may all follow Bob’s example and ask the clear questions.

    My sincere heartfelt sympathies go out to Bob’s family.

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