The Ghosts Of Christmas Eves Past

Here we are, heading into Christmas. Everybody, is slowing down and heading into the holidays. We all are. Things often get a tad scarce this time of year, but we would like to say Hi, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Mele Kalikimaka and any other greeting applicable. Thank you for being here with us.

It has been a couple of years…I think…since I have done the remembrance section at this time of year. Many of you are old-timers going back to when we were at TNH, even before the FDL years, but so many are new and really do not know the history. We have been at this a good long while now. The years float by, but the people are what sticks.

In that regard, I want to return to thanking those that contributed much, but are now gone. If you are new here, you never would have known the names of Mary, Bob Schacht, Mad Dog, Free Patriot, Skdadl and a host of others that were not only our blog friends, but that we often met and knew in real life too.

They are gone, but not forgotten heading into this Christmas Eve. But this always, at least for me, I think Marcy too, comes back into focus on this date because of our friend and beloved colleague, Mary Perdue. Mary passed away on Christmas Eve 2011. She, like all the others, was the best of what this blog had, and has, to offer. So, in memory of all who are gone, but not forgotten, here is the original in memorium for Mary.

You all, each and every one, rock. Thank you for being here and supporting us. Happy Holidays everyone:


The internet is a strange and wonderful thing. Just about everyone and everything in the world is on it, even though it is nothing but data in the form of binary computer code traversing by random electrons. Yet thought is crystalized, and friendships born and nurtured, through commonality of interest and purpose. And so it is here at Emptywheel, where many of us have been together since the days at The Next Hurrah, through years at Firedoglake, and now at our new home. Just because it germinates via the net does nothing to detract from the sense of community, friendship and admiration for each other gained over time.

With profound sadness, I report we have lost a true friend, and one of our longest tenured contributors, Mary. Mary Beth Perdue left us on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2011.

Mary Beth Perdue, 52, of Robards, KY, formally of Newburgh, passed away at her home.

She graduated Order of Coif from University of Kentucky Law School and from University of Evansville with an accounting degree. She was a member of the Indiana Bar Association. She was in house counsel at Mid-Central Land Services, Inc. and served as an attorney for firms in Indiana and Kentucky. She owned and operated the Horse and Hound (a pet supply store) in Newburgh. Mary was a lover of all animals with a special place in her heart for horses, dogs and cats. She was involved in numerous equestrian sports and organizations.

Here at Emptywheel, she was just Mary; and she was so much more than a simple obituary can convey. She was funny, kind, and, most of all, razor sharp in analysis of extremely complex issues surrounding torture, indefinite detention, international human rights, illegal wiretapping and executive branch overreach. Mary had a steel trap index in her mind for even obscure torture and rendition cases and facts. To the day she died, Mary was one of the very few people commenting in America that remembered, and would never miss a chance to point out, how the children and extended families of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Aafia Siddiqui were used and/or disappeared by the US as pawns in our immoral torture in the name of the so called “war on terror”. Mary’s dissection of Jack Goldsmith terrorist detention policy, complete with with a comparison to the Ox Bow Incident, was a thing of passion and beauty.

One of Mary’s favorite, and most important, hobby horses was the seminal case of Ex Parte Milligan, on which she beat the drum loudly long before the critical 2008 decision in Boumediene v. Bush and the 2009 release of the torture memos. She was, as usual, right. Here she is taking John Yoo apart at the seams over his intellectual duplicity regarding Ex Parte Milligan. And then there was Mary’s three part opus on the history and meaning of Ex Parte Milligan (Parts One, Two and Three), which is one of the best primers anywhere on the case that has finally come back into renewed significance in the critical issues of the war on terror. Mary played a part in keeping that significance alive, and in the discussion mix, until it took hold again.

Mary did not talk much about her real life family and work, and as another still practicing attorney, I can fully understand the maintenance of that separation. It is quite likely, like me, that her friends and family had little idea of the true depth and importance of her knowledge and dedication to the interests she expressed here, both in front page posts authored, and in her consistent critical contribution in the discussion comments. But, make no mistake, Mary was not just an invaluable contributor, and affected not just me and Marcy, but key players in the larger discussion. I know for a fact, because I talk to the different people and discussed it with them; Mary’s posts and comments were seen and known by actors from the ACLU, to EFF, to other think tanks and attorneys in the field. She left a mark.

As I said at the start of this post, the internet is a curious, if compelling and wonderful place; in all the furiously teeming milieu of people and issues, it is easy for one voice to not be missed for a brief time. All of us take time away every now and then, and Mary was no exception; often being scarce for a period due to pressing duties with work and her beloved horses and land.

I had not talked to Mary since a few days before Christmas. With the rush of the holidays, and a busy work schedule for me in January I have been a tad scarce myself and I had not particularly noticed Mary’s absence. A little over a week ago, I emailed her some irresistibly cute pictures of the one of a kind racehorse Rachel Alexandra and her new foal. Mary loved Rachel Alexandra. Realizing she had not responded to that catnip, I checked yesterday and found the terrible news. There are a lot of things Mary might be too busy with real life to respond to, but not that. And so life became a little less full and enjoyable. Mary’s family has indicated:

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to a local humane society or other animal rescue.

And that would indeed be Mary, and fit her, to a tee. Here is a secure link to do so for the national Humane Society; but by all means, if so inclined, give to your local chapter and let them know it is for Mary.

Emptywheel will not be the same without Mary Beth Perdue, but her work and memory will live in our hearts, minds and archives as a testament to who and what she was and stood for. We shall close with the picture Mary never got the opportunity to see, but would have been the epitome of the horses, animals and children which she truly loved, Rachel Alexandra and foal.

Vaya con dios Mary, you will be missed.


Cheers to all, and to all a good night and wonderful Christmas Day.

55 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Many thanks for reprising this and for your introductory note. It’s been quite a ride since TNH and FDL, but I think we’re just beginning. Cheers to you and all.

  2. punaise says:

    thanks, bmaz. Rock on, fellow wheelers*, and keep those seatbelts fastened. We’re in for a bumpy ride.


    *(my son-in-law is a Wheeler, so practically family, right?)

  3. Lydian says:

    Thank you for your kind words, bmaz.  I lack the words to adequately articulate my gratitude towards all whose written contributions confer enlightenment and peace. This blog is truly a light permeating the darkness. Namaste.

  4. P J Evans says:

    It doesn’t seem that long since Mary left.

    (I’ve been busy the couple of years with assorted medical stuff – more than that is likely TMI.)

  5. chuck says:

    May Mary’s happy, grinning spirit rattle the sleepless-night-chains above torturers and their memo writing friends, in between heavenly horse rides and endless waves of celestial puppy attacks of course. Balance in all things. Thanks for sharing the old memories and making new ones for us newbies, bmaz. Feliz Navidad a todos!

  6. Wajim says:

    I’m a newbie—longtime lurker (and only recently a minor commenter), but I feel compelled this night to say you guys rock. Like granite, with sparkles (think feldspar). Best writing and most penetrating, enlightening political/legal commentary on the Tubes, says I. Merry whatever, and a happy new year.

    • Jockobadger says:

      Feldspar does sparkle, but so does the mica in a lot of granitic rocks.  We have some beautiful pre-Cambrian granitic rocks in E. Washington – spar and mica and 4 bil yrs old.

      Merry Xmas, etc., to all EW’ers.  You folks are amazing.

  7. skua says:

    I’m a newbie here.

    Thanks to all for your work.

    My dad died in February, so this is the 1st Christmas when we’ll have to do the lifting/making space/remembering if we are to have him with us. It is embarrassingly easy to forget this. And to forget to do it.

    bmaz you’ve remembered Mary well.

    Best wishes to all.

    • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

      Thank you for your intellects, your insights-both the writers and and the commenters. I’m deeply grateful to have found such a place. Y’all are doing God’s work.

      Blessed New Year,



  8. rosalind says:

    ah, mary sweet mary. one of our last giggles was over a “star trek” v. “star wars” mash-up, cause we were/are geeks.

    and i light another candle for our amazing skdadl, whose true life – like mary – was only revealed upon death. bmaz, if you have a link to her obit/memorial post i’d love to read it again (can’t find it on the google machine).

  9. Watson says:

    Thank you for those warm words, bmaz. And thank you to the amazing crew here at Emptywheel, and to the amazing Marcy Wheeler! Happy Holidays to everyone.

  10. Peterr says:

    From the post, with “she” being Mary:

    She left a mark.


    And with style.

    And with a keen eye for leaving said mark on the right target.

    Part of Mary’s gift was also her interactions with other commenters. She had little patience for trollishness, and seemed to bring out the best in the rest of us. Her passing left a hole here at EW, but before she left she honed the skills of more than a few others, inspiring us to look more closely at what was going on around us and ponder how we might better deal with it.

    She left a mark.

    That’s a masterful understatement, bmaz. Thanks for sharing it.

  11. Vinnie Gambone says:

    LOVE’S not Death’s slave and fears not his undoing;
    Life is of all Love’s foes most pitiless,
    And custom tarnishes what in the wooing
    Seemed all the heart’s desire of happiness.

    Death is Love’s friend, and sets a holy seal
    On all the past that never can be broken.
    Its beautifying touch knows to reveal
    On lips long silent eloquence unspoken.
    Lilla Cabot Perry

    For your friend Mary.

    Don’t count the years left, count the friends.



  12. Jan says:

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Cool Yule, to all. Thanks for the sanity here on EW, hope is alive and well! From your fans in the Great White (as in snow) North. :-)

  13. Richieboy says:

    I didn’t know TNH or FDL, and I’m relatively new here, but I’m so thankful for the work y’all do and the sense of community you provide. Credit to Josh Marshall at TPM for having Marcy on his podcast, because that’s what got me here.

    I honestly feel that the stress of living under the Trump presidency has shortened my lifespan. Coming here helps arrest that process.

    I wish all here more justice, civility, and serenity in the coming year. Peace, y’all.

  14. Peacerme says:

    Argh. Free patriot, Bob S, Mad dog, Skdadl, And Mary. Wow. I miss all those voices. I was remembering the guest interviews on FDL with authors and some of the side conversations. It seems like yesterday and yet so wild to think, new crew in office, but the same basic problems. Greed. Authoritarianism, a complete loss of privacy, the loss of Habeas corpus, the decent into torture. It seems to me that this administration and its parallels to Bush “light”, (more than Nixon) might be a valuable lesson for this country. The Bush relationship with Saudi, the Trump relationship with Putin. Not a new trick. But mostly the awareness that business is global, greed is global and now more than ever the lines between country/state/ and wealth are muddy. This pickle with Trump is far from over. There will be new and constant attempts to over throw our government using greed as the weapon. And it’s been happening for a long time. But today more than ever I appreciate how fragile our democracy is and how it literally rests on good journalism, truth seekers to stay strong. They said it in college but today I see it. Feel it deeply. Patriotism at work right here.

    All those voices silenced. Having shared similar concerns. Mary could explain things in a way that truly helped me “see”. Marcy has a way of finding truth. We need truth like oxygen and we who read here share that need for truth.

    I don’t know how I would have survived the Bush years without these voices. And I still worry about surviving Trump, but coming here is like the best most fragrant cup of clarity every day.

    I truly love the people here.

    Happy holidays and peace to you all,

    Katie Jensen
    Formerly wavpeac.

  15. bloopie2 says:

    A twitterer whom I read recently stated that “Feliz Navidad” was the greatest Christmas song.  Obviously not.  Obviously, it’s “O Holy Night” which, if you read up on it, has an interesting history (though it’s still absolutely the best).  The point is that there are those who have gone before us who have done and who leave behind things that are immeasurably greater than anything we can hope to do.  Socrates, Baudelaire, Mozart, Beethoven, Churchill, FDR, Mother Teresa, on and on.  Let us give thanks to them—and to whatever it is in genetics or faith or coincidence that enables such beauty.  Mary; Marcy; the Emptywheel blog; all of these today are offshoots of those who have gone before, and they may yet give birth to even greater human strivings.  God bless you all.

  16. bloopie2 says:

    A twitterer whom I read recently stated that “Feliz Navidad” was the greatest Christmas song.  Obviously not.  Obviously, it’s “O Holy Night” which, if you read up on it, has an interesting history (though it’s still absolutely the best).  The point is that there are those who have gone before us who have done, and who leave behind, things that are immeasurably greater than anything we can hope to do.  Socrates, Baudelaire, Mozart, Beethoven, Churchill, FDR, Mother Teresa, on and on.  Let us give thanks to them—and to whatever it is in genetics or faith or coincidence that enables such beauty.  Mary; Marcy; the Emptywheel blog; all of these today are offshoots of those who have gone before, and they may yet give birth to even greater human strivings.  Bless you all.

  17. Bay State Librul says:

    “Happiness is not a matter of intensity, Thomas Merton writes,  “but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

    Thanks to the “trash talk” crew, Marcy’s engine rev-ing commentary,  and everybody’s gives and takes.

    Your pursuit of happiness and truth has been a blessing.





  18. pdaly says:

    Christmas greetings and holiday wishes to everyone. Glad to see both familiar names and newbies.

    Thanks for the remembrance post, bmaz. Mary was special and reading her posts and comments was (and still is) always worth the effort.  It does not seem that long ago that several of the names on the list you provide were actively commenting here.
    To the list I add Sara.

  19. Jenny says:

    Thank you bmaz. Sending good vibrations to ALL.
    Savor the similarities and honor the differences.
    Happy Holidays!

  20. holdingsteady says:

    Empty Wheel means a lot to me and I’m very grateful for the humanity here, thank you all!

    I haven’t seen Rayne lately, hope to soon:))

    – Rhonda


  21. posaune says:

    I feel deeply grateful for the community here:  EW, bmaz, jim, massacio, and the wonderful commenters.   Thank you all.  You’ve saved my mind at least a dozen times this year.

  22. rosalind says:

    re Sara: pdaly’s link led me to Sara’s obit (Sally Lou Todd) at Antioch College website. It concludes: “For many years Sally was involved in numerous Internet groups comprised of people from various professions across the nation. In these groups she shared her vast knowledge of politics, history, and many other topics based on her travels, her experiences, her research, and her huge library. She was an avid reader, encouraged others to read widely, and willingly passed on the knowledge she had acquired.”

    Thank you, Sister.

  23. scribe says:

    And for the ghost of Christmas Future, go read this:

    More particularly, read the petition for certiorari.–%20Final.pdf   The government first chose not to respond to the petition (which is their right, having won below) until the Court told the government to respond, which usually means the Court is interested in the case.  Then, the government has asked for and received two extensions of time to respond, each for a month.  Their response is now due 1/2/19, which means it’ll probably by bolluxed up by the Shutdown (or they’ll say it will be).

    If you want to see a horrorshow future, read the petition.


    Merry Christmas.

    • Eureka says:

      I hope last week you were inspired to get that tree up, and that you are enjoying your birds today.

      Great theme, birds- I have special stories for nearly every one of them.

  24. Chetnolian says:

    bmaz, your piece brought back the days when I was a regular on FDL . Sad to see some of the names from then who are gone.

    Back then it was nice as an overseas commenter with a deep love for the people of the USA to be involved in what seemed then and seems more now to be pretty important stuff. And it was great to make real world contact.

    While I don’t  comment so often, I am out there and feel part of the family again.

    So best wishes and hopes for a better New Year to you all.


    • bmaz says:


      Always good to see you back here. I’d laugh about the Brexit situation, but, frankly, think we are in even more dire straits here. What a mess both sides of the Atlantic have made.

  25. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    The best of all holidays today for all of you and thanks for keeping hope alive. Now back to the grand children and “How to Catch a Snowman”.

    • Valley Girl says:

      Upon seeing your name(s) I said “oh, wow!” out loud.  Memories came back, both sad and happy, vividly so of the rescue of the cats (happy) and the sudden sad loss of their FDL human companion.

      Count your blessings while ye may.

  26. hcgorman says:

    Wishing all of you the best this coming year…
    Bmaz, your rememberance of Mary brought back so many memories of great comments back and forth during the peak of the Gitmo years. Back when I thought that our country had hit rock bottom.
    This is still a site I come back to regularly but alas since my focus is still on Gitmo I just lurk and learn.

    • bmaz says:

      Hi Candace,

      Thank you, and even more so, thank you for sticking on the Gitmo watch. It is not an easy gig, but still important.

  27. Eureka says:

    I listen when you all talk about your old friends, and am glad you had the time together.

    Merry Christmas.

  28. Troy P says:

    I learned about this site from my wife earlier this year. I have been lurking and learning the last few months. I appreciate the efforts of Marcy, bmaz, rayne, and the dozens of regular contributors. Thank you all for the knowledge, humor, and zero tolerance of trolls.

    I hope the entire EW community has a peaceful and happy holiday season and that you are where you want to be and who you want to be with. All the best for 2019. I look forward to learning more.

  29. Ed Walker says:

    I miss John Chandly, the FDL writer known as Scarecrow. I miss his sanity and his humor. He was the quintessential FDL writer, knowledgeable and able to translate that knowledge into straightforward English. He was an inspiration to me as a new writer trying to find a voice. I am forever grateful to him.

  30. Gnome de Plume says:

    Happy Christmas everyone. All those names from the past! The old FDL community lives on in different forms. A lot of the still living ones I see fairly regularly on FaceBook. I love the erudite commentary found here; over at Josh’s joint at TPM; and at Charlie Pierce’s shebeen at Esquire. Like others have said, I am grateful for camaraderie. I would not have survived living in deep red Texas for the past 20+ years if I didn’t have all these virtual friends and fellow travelers to read and keep me somewhat sane. Thanks guys!

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