Weeping For the Scarecrow

As you may have heard by now, friend of this blog, and our friend at Firedoglake, John Chandley, aka “Scarecrow”, has died. Let the record reflect that I am freaking tired of being on the memorial duty. Seriously tired. If you are a participant in the discussion at this blog, or a related friend thereto, quit dying. Please. Enough.

John Chandley was a man. He stood firm and resolute on his own, in spite of being known probably to you only for blogging at Firedoglake under the pseudonym of “Scarecrow”. But Scarecrow was much more that that; never a merely a straw creature, but one who definitively stood firm for that which was righteous in the income inequality wars:

Scarecrow on a wooden cross Blackbird in the barn
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
I grew up like my daddy did My grandpa cleared this land
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand

Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow
This land fed a nation This land made me proud
And Son I’m just sorry there’s no legacy for you now
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow

The crops we grew last summer weren’t enough to pay the loans
Couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the Farmers Bank foreclosed

Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land
He said John it’s just my job and I hope you understand
Hey calling it your job ol’ hoss sure don’t make it right
But if you want me to I’ll say a prayer for your soul tonight

“Like a scarecrow in the rain”. Aren’t we all. That is the meter of life, and it is transient. Funny thing was, the real John Chandley, at least so far as I even knew him, was not transient in the least; but came out of the Berkeley swamps, cool and slow, like John Chandley’s friend and colleague at the time at Berkeley (John/Scarecrow was present at Berkeley in the moment), Mario Savio, with a backbeat hard to master.

The musical imagery here is mine; I am not sure what would be the preferred cocktail de jour of John. Before I leave, let me offer up one more paean of my own to the life of the one, and only, Mr. John “Scarecrow” Chandley”:

The world’s goin’ crazy and
Nobody gives a damn anymore.
And they’re breakin’ off relationships and
Leavin’ on sailin’ ships for far and distant shores.
You’re my brother,
Though I didn’t know you yesterday.
I’m your brother.
Together we can find a way.

Scarecrow would have, by every right that I knew him, been trepidatious in regards for our future; yet hopeful for the success and greatness that may await us all.

It is hard to tell where we all go in the living, much less where we go beyond. But never let it be said this blog does not care about the voices who were its friends and colleagues. And certainly not tonight.

RIP John “Scarecrow” Chandley.

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.
39 replies
  1. JohnT says:

    Reposting my comment from FDL below

    I feel like a part of me is missing

    The sanity, the rationalism, the intellect, the warmth, the empathy and the patience of this great man will be missed by me. I met Christopher and Christopher’s wife about 5 or 6 years ago, and I was very impressed with them, and have to think that John had a lot to do with that. I also met his sister Martha, last year, who inspires me with her devotion to her faith and compassion for others

    Even though I never met him I think I knew him a little bit because of his reflection and influence on the family members I have met

    Someday, I’d hope to be lucky enough to be thought of as a fraction of what I think of the man that Scarecrow is and was

    I agree with you bmaz, too many good voices have gone out in the last few months, and years, and I’m tired of it too

  2. bmaz says:

    Hi there. I cleaned a few things up in the post…..after posting…..because I am a crappy editor to start with, and also I am a bit emotional. Sorry.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    I don’t get here daily this year, and it is starting to feel as if every time that I swoop by, another bright light has shifted energy states and is now twinkling in some distant galaxy, rather than making shrewd observations, or sly puns, or some other delightful contribution around here.

    This one’s a toughie.

  4. JohnT says:

    @emptywheel: Yea, it was only the one time time, but Christopher’s a great guy, and sharp as a tack. Hope to get into contact with Martha more than I have (been preoccupied with a family health issue)

  5. orionATL says:

    scarecrow was a fine writer and a fine editor.

    nothing he ever did in weblog land was as memorable to me as his wise sheparding of the weeks of discussion following the japanese earthquake.

    this was superb writing, spurerb editing, and superb editorial leadership.

    scarecrow had his own comments about nuclear matters,. based on professional knowledge he had gleaned at a younger time in his life.

    but a commenter named “lobster” shoed up at fdl – a commenter who was on top of the physics and the facts at fukashima.

    scarecrow gave lobster his head (racing terms) and fdl ended up with probably the greatest up-to-date, technically well-informed, supported-by-other-knowledgeable (“box turtle”, “millisevrt” in tokyo) individuals reporting of a super-major news event that i have ever read and observed in my +-7 years reading and commenting and learning in the weblog world.

    that was scarecrow.

    a writer and an editor who cared deeply for the principal of “let’s see that folks are informed; let’s tell it just like it is”.

  6. Peterr says:

    I never met John face to face, but talked with him by phone and traded God knows how many MB of emails.

    He was strong in his beliefs, based on his many years of education and life experience.

    He was honest about the limits of his beliefs, and was willing to learn from anyone willing to teach him something he didn’t know.

    He valued — highly — the give and take among progressives as we try to hone messages and move the public conversation out of the realm of unicorns and sparkly ponies and into the realm of Getting Something Done That Needs Doing.

    When passions got high among friends, John was one who could help calm things down. When passions got low, John was one who helped fire folks up.

    He will be missed, but not forgotten.

    But I can’t help but think that Nebraska’s governor held off on giving his approval to the Keystone XL pipeline route through his state until he got word that the Tarsands 65 was down by one Scarecrow firmly opposed to the project. As Charlie Pierce notes, “On Tuesday, thanks to a whopping flip-flop by Nebraska governor Dave Heineman, the ball’s firmly in the president’s court.”

    And, as Scarecrow would remind us, in ours as well.

  7. phred says:

    I’m with you bmaz. I have had quite enough of this. Too many voices have gone quiet over the past year or so. Losing Scarecrow’s voice is particularly painful as his posts were among those I read first each day. He had a keen mind, a sharp wit, and a gift for getting to the crux of an issue in spite of whatever obfuscation was being bandied about in the press.

    I will miss him dearly.

  8. Elliott says:

    It’s a bitter loss for our side, a tragedy for his family – and his friends across the blogosphere. He was a giant.

    My condolences to his family and the rest of us.

  9. tejanarusa says:

    A fine piece of writing, bmaz. Emotion is appropriate in this moment.
    What a loss, for those who only read his work, as well as those who knew and loved him ‘in real life.’

  10. RevDeb says:

    He was a great man and a great friend. I was one of the lucky ones who got to spend a lot of time with him over the last 6+ years since we met through FDL. I met Christopher and JOhn’s ex-wife and her husband. They came to the east coast and stayed at John’s place. Oddly, it all made sense.

    The world is a bleaker place without him to be here to set us straight about what’s really going on.

    We will miss his wit, his kindness, his pin-point accuracy about just about everything he wrote about.

    There aren’t enough words. . . .

  11. pdaly says:

    I left a message at FDL under Jane’s post remembering John Chandley.

    As I mentioned there, his astute observations of what Occupy Boston’s volunteers had accomplished in the small underused Dewey Park showed his compassion for humanity and hope for the future:

    John Chandley:
    “The fact is Occupy Boston’s use of Dewey Park really wasn’t a serious problem for anyone except those who tried to live there. The occupiers provided shelter, protection, food and caring not only for themselves but for all the problems experienced by the least fortunate who live in America’s cities. And so anyone who needed those essential services naturally gravitated to the occupation for what its community could provide.

    So it was no surprise that the mostly young, idealistic and courageous occupiers were forced from day 1 to recreate government, to develop mechanisms to deal, face to face with drug abuse, violent/uncontrolled behavior, unemployment, homelessness, hunger and poor health. It wasn’t all just marches and demonstrations and rallies and teach ins; it was also a daily struggle for human and humane survival. And the fact this was happening was also a daily embarrassment to the city and a reminder of how badly our cities fail for so many of their citizens.”

    John also kicked in money of his own towards a New Year’s Eve dinner that FDL Occupy Supply provided to the relocated Occupy Boston group. John basically doubled the amount with his own contribution. I know, because John sent me his money and the gift card FDL Occupy Supply had forwarded. Then Brian (a fellow FDL Occupy Supply volunteer) and myself used it to buy and deliver food to the New Year’s Eve event. John was a great writer, keen observer and a generous soul.

    It was a pleasure to meet him. RIP, John.

  12. Pachacutec says:

    I met John a number of times, and remember when we recruited him from the comments at FDL to write on the front page.

    As passionate and New England cranky (in a good way) as he could be online and off during debates, he was the consummate snow haired gentleman in life. Flinty and fiery with a strong moral voice, unafraid to be contrary, he was an excellent writer and thinker.

    The world’s a slightly smaller place today. John, you are missed. Godspeed.

  13. orionATL says:

    i don’t appreciate being caught in spam filters when i am trying to edit a comment – by adding additional info to it.

  14. Terry Olson says:

    Too many gone. (MARY!) I just want to say that I so appreciate you all before we leave each other. Scarecrow was among the best. I did get to meet him briefly at a breakfast in Chicago which egregious/katymine sponsored at Netroots. All of the best to the family of John Chandley.

    Thanks, bmaz.

    Loo Hoo

  15. oldnslow says:

    Thank you bmaz for a moving and caring notice on the passing of a valued progressive voice. I, as is the case with many, understand the struggle a little better for having read his work.

  16. Bustednuckles says:

    How sad.
    Over the years we seem to have lost quite a few good ones.
    Sheece, it seems like Scarecrow was around forever.

    RIP sir, ya done good.

    BTW, How many years has it been since I have seen the unmistakeable handle of Pachacutec?

  17. Mack says:

    I have nothing to add to what the rest have said other than thinking there is a large vacuum left by John and Mary. These were two people whose strong morality was as informed as felt; an all too rare quality.
    Our hosts on this forum share this quality and deserve all our support for it.

  18. Jim White says:

    Here is the comment I left on the FDL post yesterday:

    The unique combination of solid intellect, steadfast moral concern for all of humanity and indefatigable effort that was John Chandley was a true inspiration to me, and, I suspect, to nearly everyone with whom he came into contact. He will be sorely missed, but we are so enriched by having known him.

  19. Pachacutec says:


    Thanks. I’m around and well, just not blogging. Hanging around twitter when I can, it helps me keep in touch with a lot of the old gang. Bmaz and EW talk football smack with me there.

    My mind keeps coming back to John when I first met him at NRN in Chicago. I can remember having lunch at some cafeteria table with him and RevDeb. Wasn’t that long ago but years seem drenched on Internet time, so it feels like a much longer time ago. Just another lesson on the importance of doing good by the people we meet, time is short.

  20. klynn says:

    Oh bmaz, a beautiful tribute for our wonderful brother-on-the-net, Scarecrow. Thank you.

    John was a gem in our efforts to make justice happen. Informed, caring, tireless, articulate…The page could be filled with a list of his many amazing qualities.

    We are all very blessed to have known Scarecrow through his writing, causes, concerns, actions, compassion and wisdom.

    My thoughts are with his family.

  21. bmaz says:

    @masaccio: You know, it was little over six months ago that you, Scarecrow, Marcy, ChrisInParis and Dahlia Lithwick and I were closing down pubs in Rhode Island.

    It truly seems like yesterday. This really sucks.

  22. Rayne says:

    Although I “met” John as part of the FDL team of commenters and contributors, I met him in person in 2009. He was as Pachacutec described him above, flinty; he was succinct, cool, lucid in his rage against the machine, a lesson in how to be an effective rebel.

    I had the lucky misfortune to be stuck waiting with John for a bloody cab outside a restaurant one evening during Netroots Nation 2009. Like a gentleman, he’d let everyone else from our dinner party board the too-rare cabs, waiting alone with me for 45 minutes for the next sluggardly yellow car to come along and cart us back to the convention. We had a lovely, wide-ranging discussion about many topics as we waited; he was a fine companion, a wonderful fellow human being to sit with a while.

    In retrospect, we are all of us waiting for that last cab. While we wait we can only hope to keep company with someone as fine and dedicated to his fellow riders as John Chandley.

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