Neutrina Detector , Los Alamos, 1999

Feds dock Los Alamos lab in performance review


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The contractor that runs one of the nation’s premier national laboratories has lost out on tens of millions of dollars from the federal government because of what officials call a serious performance failure.

The National Nuclear Security Administration finished its annual evaluation of Los Alamos National Laboratory earlier this month and the overall results aren’t positive. The fee earned by Los Alamos National Security LLC for the 2014 fiscal year was slashed to $6.25 million, a fraction of the $63.4 million the contractor could have earned, according to documents made public Monday.

The NNSA singled out a mishap in February at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico. That’s where a container packed with radioactive waste from Los Alamos ruptured and forced the plant’s indefinite closure.

Lab Director Charlie McMillan acknowledged the weight that the WIPP mishap had on the evaluation in a memo sent Monday to employees. He said the severity of the event resulted in an unsatisfactory rating when it came to the lab’s operations and infrastructure.

“Although this was a very tough year for the laboratory, I am optimistic that next year will be better. I am determined to do all that I can to make it so,” he told employees.

McMillan also used the memo to highlight some of the successes at the lab over the past year, including being chosen to develop a remote sensor for the Mars 2020 mission and collaborating on a project aimed at characterizing the damage at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

However, the mishap at WIPP has spurred more criticism than praise for managers at the nuclear repository and at Los Alamos.

A group of watchdogs in early December called on U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to slash the fees awarded to Los Alamos, saying its contractual performance was “seriously substandard.” The watchdogs also pointed out that the lab had missed state-imposed deadlines for cleaning up Cold War-era waste on its northern New Mexico campus.



New Mexico officials have already levied $36.6 million in penalties for permit violations at Los Alamos that stemmed from the radiation leak at WIPP. The state has accused the lab of mixing incompatible waste, treating hazardous waste without a permit and failing to notify regulators about changes in the way waste was being handled.

The state’s investigation is ongoing and more penalties are possible.

The Energy Department has yet to complete its investigation into what caused the container to leak, but officials suspect a chemical reaction in highly acidic waste that was packed with organic cat litter to absorb moisture.

According to the state, experts had notified the lab to stop using organic materials as early as 2012 because of the possible dangers of mixing them with nitrate salts.

The DOE has estimated it could take years and more than a half-billion dollars to get the nuclear repository operating again.



Main Gate, 1944



 Jacob George’s Sorrowful

Ride Till the End

by Abby Zimet, staff writer, Common Dreams
 Oh so heartbreaking to hear of the suicide – or as some call it, the death from moral injuries–  of Jacob George, 32-year-old Arkansas farmer, musician, activist and veteran of three tours of Afghanistan who came home shattered by post-traumatic horror that he insisted was not a disorder, but a natural human response to the inhumanity of war. George fought hard to heal his pain and grief: Riding his bike 8,000 miles over 3 years to sing his songs and tell his stories, testifying wherever he could about the hard truths he’d come to, seeking some semblance of peace with brothers and sisters who shared his sense of betrayal by his country, returning to Afghanistan to work with young Afghan anti-war activists, and on what he sometimes called his best day, throwing his medals back to the generals who sent him to the wars that broke him. It’s only right, note many of the sorrowful remembrances of him, that we honor him by fighting as hard in his name. Rest in peace.

Throwing back his medals at the NATO  Summit


One time I approached the mountains to wash off in a snowy spring. 

It reminded me of Arkansas, mountains without the green. 

I know you speak from ignorance. Your words you can’t understand. 

The beauty of life is everywhere in Afghanistan.


“I Know You Don’t Mean It” | Jacob George

“Be careful where you step”: for a Palestinian child

I lived as best I could, and then I died.

Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

M.Burch, “Epitaph for a Palestinian Child”


They opened the door with a ram.
They took us from the house
and fired shots at my family.

They killed my mother and four sisters,

my father and my brother’s son .
Then all my brothers were found and shot.

I stood still. I could not move.
My whole family was dead.

They lay there under rubble for sixteen days

Who will teach me now?

Where can I go?


Author’s name withheld, age 13

From Child Poets of Gaza, M. Burch, Editor,


“The most important message you get from your superiors in the Israeli military is that every Palestinian needs to feel Israel is at the back of their neck. So, quickly, you adapt to the environment; you don’t see the Palestinian in front of you as human. They are reduced to being an object.”

Yehuda Shaul


Before Palestine became a Muslim region in the year 636, numerous peoples competed for  control of its strategic location, including Nazerine Christians and Caananites.  Between around 1382 and  1615, Palestine was universally revered by Arab and Muslim scholars and other writers of the time as the “blessed land of the prophets and Islam’s revered leaders”.  Pilgrims flocked to Palestine from throughout the Arab world in a kind of renaissance, as ancient Muslim sanctuaries were rediscovered.  In 1496, Mujir al-Din al-‘Ulaymi wrote his history of Palestine known as The Glorious History of Jerusalem and Hebron.


The Mamluk Sultanate was indirectly created in Egypt as a result of the Seventh Crusade. The Mongol Empire reached Palestine for the first time in 1260, beginning with the Mongol raids into Palestine under Nestorian Christian general Kitbuqa and reaching an apex at the pivotal Battle of Ain Jalut. In 1486, hostilities broke out between the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks in a battle for control over western Asia and the Ottomans captured Palestine in 1516


“The way we passed those night patrols was to bang on random houses, no reason and we’d go in, wake everyone up, men in one room, women in another, mess everything up, onto the next house.  One night we wanted to watch a soccer match so we went looking for a house that had a satellite dish. We found one, went in and locked the family in the basement while we watched the match. Why wouldn’t we? That’s what we do in the occupied territories.”

Yehuda Shaul


La Madre de los  Árboles

De Alice Walker 

 Si yo fuera

la madre del Viento

soplaría todo el miedo

lejos de ti.

The Mother of Trees
©2014 by Alice Walker 

If I could be

the mother of Wind

I would blow all fear

away from you.

 If I could be

the mother of Water

I would wash out the path

that frightens you.

 If I were the mother

of Trees

I would plant

my tallest children

around your feet
that you might

climb beyond all danger.


But alas,

I am only

a mother of humans

whose magic powers

have  vanished

since we allow

our littlest ones

to face injustice

& the unholiest

of terrors


Translated by Cuban poet Mañuel Verdecia

Alice Walker’s note about this poem:

For weeks I did nothing but think about this child and all the Palestinian children taken from their schools and  homes, their beds, often in the middle of the night



Rank: First Sergeant.
Hebron, 2012
New York Times, March 23, 20007
His name was Daoud. We stopped our vehicle, ran out, he was in total shock. We took him to Gross Post, to the Jewish side, and he began to cry, scream, he was just streaming sweat and tears. We had nothing to do with him, suddenly you end up with a crying kid. A second ago he was throwing roof tiles at the army post, and you’re dying to beat him to a pulp, and you’re alerted out there in that heat. You want to kill him but he’s crying. We didn’t know what to do, so we put him under watch. Once someone who was with him went wild, did something to him and left.

At some point when I was with him I tried to calm him down because he was tied, blindfolded, and crying, tears and sweat streaming out all over. I began to shake him, then the deputy company commander tried. He grabbed him and began to shake him: “Shut up, shut up, enough, cut it out!” Then we took him to the police station at Givat Ha’avot and he continued to cry because the policemen didn’t take him in for interrogation. He was so annoying, this was insane. In all that mess, while he was crawling on the floor, the communications man took out his Motorola, his two-way radio and boom! – banged him on the head. Not meaning to be cruel, just hearing that unbearable crying for over two hours.

This happened at the police station?



OTTOMAN  TURKS (Muslims). Palestine, like the rest of the MidEast, was part of the hugh     Ialamic Ottoman Empire for 400  years  before being occupied and    divided up like a pack of cards.

OTTOMAN TURKS:  Palestine, like the rest of the MidEast, was part of the huge, Islamic, Ottoman Empire for 400 years before being occupied and divided up like a pack of cards by Western forces after World War One.

Palestine’s 230 year “Golden Age” ended in 1615, when the imperial forces of the Ottoman Empire arrived to deliver an invitation the region could not afford to refuse. In fact, though, the Turks were expected and fairly well-known by most of the  peoples they conquered.

The Ottoman Empire had by 1615 been the world’s leading Islamic state for at least two centuries. This was true in not only geopolitical, but in cultural and ideological terms as well.  While the Turks  certainly made sure they were in charge, the ideological and cultural values they shared with, in this case, the Palestinians, were genuine and meaningful. The Turks were famous for their religious tolerance, protecting Christian and Jewish minorities from harassment by fellow Muslims at the point of a sword. In fact, throughout much of their empire, the  Ottomans achieved a level of tolerance remarkable enough to may well have been singular.  Non-Muslims were also empowered to enforce their own  religious-based laws through such institutionally regulated systems as they saw fit. Turks didn’t objectify, denigrate and disrupt Palestinian culture – more than anything, they shared it.

The partitioning of the Ottoman Empire led to the rise in the “Middle East” of Western powers, such as Britain and France after World War I. The huge conglomeration of territories and peoples that formerly comprised the Ottoman Empire was divided into several new states. The partitioning brought the creation of the modern Arab world and the Republic of Turkey.

The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Mesopotamia (later Iraq,) and Palestine, (later divided into Palestine and Transjordan). The Ottoman Empire’s possessions on the Arabian Peninsula became the Kingdom of Hejaz and the Sultanate of Nejd (today Saudi Arabia), the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf.

Resistance to the influence of these powers came from the Turkish national movement and became more widespread in the post-Ottoman states after World War II.


Casi no existen las palabras cuando la Guerra es contra los niños e.

There are almost no words when the war is against children.

Alice Walker


 Future – it’s a big word for me and I had a lot of dreams…two years ago I decided to be a journalist because I like to write and take photos and things like that – but I forgot that I live in Gaza and those things are impossible for us.
I can’t travel at any time or write anything here. No one writes anything except about war and enemies (Israel) so my dream started to vanish.
Now I don’t know what I want to be and have no dream.

Boy, age 12. Name withheld, Child Poets of Gaza, Ibid.


I just want to ask the people who are living outside of Gaza…

Imagine your life with no electricity or basic things? Destroyed home, a lot of children who don’t have parents, the sounds just like the roll of thunder…BOOM…all the time. Imagine your children tell you through their eyes and cries, “We are afraid, we can’t take it anymore and we can’t even sleep!”

Imagine yourself with no one beside you, to take care of you or even to look after you…and the people around you are strangers…How long could you stand it?

If the world stood with us we will not stand it any longer or anymore. But unfortunately there is no ”doings” just other people who are trying to help us by saying words, not more. They don’t do for us any good things.

We are now better than before, at least we can go to school everyday instead of seeing others dying.

I hope Gaza will change and be as the other countries…we just have to pray all the time!

We just want PEACE.


Girl, age 14, name withheld, The Child Poets of Gaza, Ibid.


All text is excerpts, except Alice Walker poem. Historical references from Wikipedia. Photos from Google Images.

Q.What makes the ACLU laugh? A. Your rights


The Neoliberal Non-Profit Hymn


We stand strong for human rights

                                          Just look us up online.
                                        Wherever freedom’s trampled

                                          We take freedom’s side.


But we can’t stand for human rights

 in every whacko’s name.

Justice can’t be handed out

to all who make a claim.

DSCF0425 (1)
                                  We’re the ones who know what’s best.
                                       we take the longer view:
                                How long would freedom last for us
                                      in the hands of bums like you?
                                         By Claire O’Brien 2014
040-MOTION (1)

“What force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?”

from  Solidarity Forever




M A Y D A Y !



baltimorecrime-00d37f352c38ed5ca70351f46d5aaf23cd9a5bb5-s6-c10WHY ARE HUMAN BEINGS LIVING HERE?

THE OLD PLANTATION / Now THIS is a bad neighborhood.  Its residents should be stopped and frisked regularly, and door-to-door searches of every closet in every mansion should occur at frequent, random intervals.  WASP mansions  should get slave searches at twice that rate: you know, prior history and all that. / SMOKING GUN 2011









CHICAGO, 1935 – the first national convention of the Women’s Economic Council of  the famous African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, led for decades by the remarkable Philip J. Randolph. His nimble political mind, and genius for large scale organizational leadership  helped shape the BSCP into a force to be reckoned with re national issues of race that extended far beyond the union.  Randolph delivered an ultimatum to the White House in the middle of WW II: either the US  take immediate steps  to integrate the nation’s armed forces, or he would call for a huge national protest to take up indefinite residence in the streets of the nation’s capitol. All too aware of  the hundreds of thousands  who could be on his doorstep virtually overnight, President Franklin D. Roosevelt literally  begged Randolph not to do it. Randolph agreed to hold off, on the condition that Roosevelt acted swiftly, and in good faith  – and the president kept his word. Twenty years later, Mr. Randolph returned to  Washington,D.C to stand beside his friend,  Dr. Martin Luther King, as King called the whole world to witness.






If  the workers take a notion,
They can stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean
They can tie with mighty chains.
Every wheel in the creation,
Every mine and every mill,
Fleets and armies of the nation,
Will at their command STAND STILL.

Join the union, fellow workers,
Men and women, side by side;
We will crush the greedy shirkers
Like a sweeping, surging tide;
For united we are standing,
But divided we will fall;
Let this be our understanding —
“All for one and one for all.”

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might;
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.




Joe Hill wrote this famous song about Elizabeth Gurley Flynn , the fiery daughter of Irish immigrant labor organizers, who became a well-known speaker and agitator while still  a teenager. Hounded, imprisoned, and threatened by the authorities all her life, Flynn remained  as fearless in her old age as she had been in her youth. She loved her class, the international working class – and it loved her back.


Yes, her hands may be hardened from labor,  and her dress may not be fine;

But a heart in her bosom is beating  that is true to her class and her kind.

And the grafters in terror are trembling when her spite and defiance she’ll hurl;

For the only and thoroughbred lady Is the Rebel Girl.

That’s the Rebel Girl, the Rebel Girl! To the working class she’s a precious pearl.

She  fights with pride and courage beside the  Rebel Boy.

We’ve had girls before, but we always need more

In the Industrial Workers of the World

For it’s great to fight for freedom With a Rebel Girl.










The email that “disappeared”: found in a deceased professor’s paper


Without Reporter’s Shield Laws, who Would be willing to Speak up?




Presented at the 124th annual convention and trade show

Of The National Newspaper Association

Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 2010, in Omaha, Neb.

By Les Anderson

Professor, Elliott School of Communication

Wichita State University, Wichita, Kan. 67260-0031 

†††  Note: This paper has been  greatly condensed, without detracting from its original meaning. My primary purpose in posting this shortened version is to emphasize the political nature of the defamatory campaign that was unleashed against me when I objected, in a civil manner, and on appropriate grounds , to the unprotected status the bill leaves reporters in rural western Kansas. It’s a “whole other country” from the eastern part of the state.

In February 2007, Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, addressed members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Kansas Legislature about a proposed reporters shield law.

Anstaett told the legislative committee that we in America can handle the truth, and that it is the job of professional news gatherers to do their best to deliver that truth to citizens.

The American people have shown time and again throughout our history that not only can we handle the truth, we demand it as an absolutely essential ingredient of our form of government, he said.

Without the protection afforded by the proposed reporters shield law, however, Anstaett said in 2007, sources will continue to be intimidated and will continue to choose to not come forward, and journalists will not learn what public officials and others want to hide.

The proposed shield law didnt gain much traction in Kansas for several more years. One of the problems Anstaett and the state’s journalists faced was providing real-life evidence to back up their request for new legislation.

In the fall of 2009, Anstaett, the press association and journalists in Kansas got the ammunition they needed. Claire OBrien, a reporter in Dodge City, had been subpoenaed to testify at an inquisition, where she would likely be ordered to give up her unpublished notes and her confidential source for a story in a local murder case.

According to an Associated Press story by John Hanna, the county attorney was trying to force OBrien to hand over notes from a jailhouse interview with a man charged with second-degree murder. He also was trying to get her to divulge the identity of a confidential source who suggested the man acted in self-defense and that one of the victims had ties to an anti-Hispanic group. OBrien refused to comply with the subpoena.

Initially, the Kansas Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of a subpoena for OBriens notes, according to the AP story, but the next day, the reporter received a subpoena (from the county prosecutor) to appear at the defendants trial as a witness. The Kansas Supreme Court (immediately)… refused to block the subpoena (without considering the appeal).

Anstaett commented: It (the supreme court ruling) sends an unmistakably chilling message to our reporters and to their sources that no protections exist for those who want to blow the whistle on government, uncover corruption and abuse, or report on the criminal element in our communities.

The Senate majority leader  agreed  that because of the Dodge City case, We should strike while the iron is hot.

With his help, a new proposal was enacted into law in that same 2010 session.

Kansas became the 38th state with a shield law.



2012-12-07 Press Tags 004

Not everyone connected with the Dodge City case was happy with the new shield law, especially OBrien, the reporter who brought the plight of reporters to the attention of the public and the legislature.

OBriens newspaper, the Dodge City Daily Globe, is one of nine Kansas dailies owned by GateHouse Media, which is based in Fairport, N.Y.,  and owns ( close to 400 newspapers)

In an e-mail in late January to the state press association, her companys division manager and publishers of four Kansas newspapers owned by GateHouse Media including her own OBrien said she was disappointed in the bill. This e-mail came before it was signed into law.

“(The bill) strikes me as the kind of compromise that will give the legislature an excuse to avoid passing a real shield law for another couple of decades, OBrien said in her e-mail. We won’t get another opportunity to pass a bill with real teeth in it for a long time, and with the feds packing reporters off to prison in record numbers, I still think our best hope is a proactive and vigorous appeal to public opinion.

She continued: This bill leaves ample room for forced testimony. If it serves as the basis for my protection, I predict that I’ll soon be right back in the same courtroom. I know this county attorney and this judge well enough to be certain of that. And I gave my word to my sources that their identities would be protected.

OBrien added in her e-mail: I’m not willing to go to jail for this bill. I don’t think it will protect me. However, I do remain willing and ready to go to jail in order to achieve real protection for all Kansas reporters.

I realize that the above scenario would transpire in theory only if the state meets certain criteria, but, in Ford County at least, the court has clearly demonstrated its willingness, if not eagerness, to rubber stamp every claim the state has made in that regard.” (My note, included here, not a part of the original email or of this paper: as a reporter, I had observed our county prosecutor and Judge Love in action for almost a year. It was clear to people in Ford County  that if the shield bill passed, our DA, who went hunting with this judge every other weekend, would simply hand his pal, I mean his honor, a statement claiming that he had, as required by the bill,  exhausted other resources. The judge would sign the prosecutor’s subpoena with no pretense of reading the statement. An hour later a deputy would appear at a reporter’s desk and hand him a subpoena.

I realize that I’m just one factor in this whole scenario, and that each of you will make decisions as you see fit. I realize also that I’m just a beat reporter who probably appears to be getting too big for her britches. But for what it’s worth, and again with sincere respect to all, I’m risking your displeasure only because of deeply held personal convictions.



OBrien was fired from the Dodge City paper shortly after the issue was resolved.

(She) told an Associated Press reporter that it was in retaliation for comments she made to news outlets after she was found in contempt for failing to appear at the inquisition. Her newspapers parent company, GateHouse Media, denied her allegations.

Obrien said she never testified before the legislature on the proposed shield law, although she had initially been asked to provide input.  She wasn’t mentioned at the bill-signing ceremony either, nor at the annual state press association banquet, where everyone who played a role re the bill’s success was  individually thanked. Except O’Brien.

It emerged late in the press banquet that O’Brien had not only won first place in the news division – and with the very story that had attracted the wrath of the DA in the first place – but that she had broken a state record by winning three additional awards at once.

“Fortunately, the judges were from the Nebraska Press Association,”” the unrepentant reporter  commented on the RCFP website.




. In a July 2010 interview after her firing, O’Brien said …she was outside the information flow between the court and the newspaper’s parent company.

..”I was forfeiting some basic rights,”  she said.

…She didn’t think it was unreasonable to want copies of everything associated with the case.

“I didn’t want to be leading a parade,” she said. “I wanted to be informed. I had to fight just to be told when motions were going to be presented… anyone facing a criminal charge has a right to information.”




OBrien received four Kansas Press Association awards for her stories that appeared in the Dodge City newspaper. Ironically, among the awards was a first place for the story on her jailhouse interview.

OBrien maintains the new shield law may protect the  urban Democrats of eastern Kansas in places such as the famously wealthy Johnson County,  and in Topeka and Wichita, where the state’s only two large newspapers  are respectively located.  As for the towns, large and small, that dot the high arid plains of Kansas’ vast central and western regions, the bill provides the  reporters who put in 12 to 16 hour days for an average wage of $24,000 a year about as much protection as nylon netting.

Out here, she added, prosecutors rule like kings.




  Purple text – highlighted email, incorporated by Professor Anderson into text and quoted directly by myself.

♦ Blue text – extremely condensed

 Orange text – added by me

♦ Black text – by Professor Les Anderson, Elliot school of Communication,Wichita State University

The above paper was also published in Editor and Publisher, November 2010





Patricia Medina: “They’ve never been able to shut me up.” PHOTO / Claire O’Brien 2014

Comarada, entonces os he visto,  y mis ojos estan hasta ahora llenos de orgullo.

Comrade,  then I saw you – and my eyes are even now filled with pride.

Pablo Neruda


Almost ninety years ago, in 1924 or’25, a young girl left the Mexican border town of Agua Pieta, which sits on the northern edge of  Sonora facing Douglas, Arizona and walked a few miles into the United States.  Visibly pregnant, she travelled alone.  Otilla  Gallegos had just turned fourteen.

 She passed quickly through the small town, reaching a dusty highway as a bus appeared in the distance. Hours later, as evening began to fall over the southwestern mountains of New Mexico,  the bus pulled into Silver City, where Otilla joined two distant uncles. The men had found work at Arizona’s Santa Rita Mine, not far from the state line, and had agreed to provide several months of shelter until Otilla could get on her feet.

The two miners were actually Otilla’s second or third cousins ; thus, her family had been careful to make no claims on them.  The girl’s sudden adult status had been made very clear to her; still, it was not until Otilla climbed into her little mattress for her first night in America that she felt the full weight of complete and immediate responsibility

The large Gallegos family was essentially destitute; in fact barely surviving. Life was measured out in days, and days were calculated by small fistfuls of beans and corn.  Otilla  could see for herself that the two uncles, whom she barely knew, worked under terrible conditions to support their own desperate families back in Agua Pieta.

 Otilla understood all of this. Whatever she could not understand, she kept to herself.                                                                       .



Today, the  Mexican border city of Agua Pieta  has a population of 200,000, but the poverty is just as crushing as it was in 1925. The US deports busloads of people to the city daily, leaving them  stranded thousands of miles from their original homes in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama. But Agua Pieta is also an old city, with a population of many generations, and a center of massive 16th century Spanish colonial structures. The city was one of Pancho Villa’s loyal strongholds during the Mexican Revolution. A few miles from the 450 year old palaces and cathedrals, the modest ranch houses of the much, much younger small town of Douglas, Arizona can be seen on the other side of the border fence


This, then, was life, looking straight at  Ottilla Gallegos and telling her she had  no time to lose.  Early on the morning after her arrival, she went  looking  for a  job,  a slight, pretty fourteen-year old who couldn’t pass for  even fifteen, making her way along Silver City’s Main St preceded by her  protruding belly. It was 1924;  people looked at Otilla, and not kindly.

  She had a chance to cook and another to do laundry, so Otilla’s job choice surprised her uncles: she  hired on as part of a crew laying Silver City’s first concrete sidewalks.  People might have stared at her disapprovingly that first day, but  an obviously pregnant child performing heavy labor in public week after week was something else entirely.  They found themselves looking away, a fact of which Otilla took note. We know this because she made a point of telling the story, as I am telling it now, to each of her four children.

Otilla worked harder as her delivery date loomed ever closer –  until her boss and co-workers just couldn’t stand it,  begged  her to stop, and took up a collection to cover a week’s wages. Otilla took her money, went to her uncle’s apartment and got into bed.

Two days later, her daughter Lourdes was born.

Otilla’s children  passed this story down to their own children with the same care: in fact,  it’s one of the first things her  descendents will tell you about Otilla Gallegos. Like her, they have spent their lives laboring.


Main Street, Silver City, New Mexico / Suzanne Van Hulst

  “She passed the torch to our parents and they passed it to us. She worked harder than anyone  I have ever met, she gave her life away in labor to the Anglos, yet she was treated as if she were nothing – as if her labor belonged to them,” Patricia Medina told me as she whacked the dust out of a rug with an old broom last week. Medina is one of Gallegos’ many grandchildren, and is herself a grandmother. She recently lost her  home in Las Lunas after forty years of labor and moved to a  public housing project two hours south. At age  55, she is back at work as a housekeeper, unable to live on the disability payments she had thought would allow her to retire early.  But on the day I met her, Medina’s primary concern about the job was not its impact on her injured spine, knees and neck . Her hope was for more assigned work hours, leading to a full-time position. “I come from a long line of poor people,” Medina said. ” We expect to be called lazy, we expect people to point to us and say we haven’t made  progress in three or four generations like good Latinos should.  We never expect justice. But that doesn’t mean we accept injustice!  Oh no.  No, no. We fight the battles we have a chance of winning.  If not, we do what needs to be done.  That is how we remain free.” We were draping her heavy rug over a fence that seperates the housing project from a gravel pit, but Medina paused for a moment to peer at me. . ” Don’t ever, ever let anyone rob you of that, because when they can make you ashamed — that’s when they own you: when they can make you believe the lie that Latino families who don’t make it up the ladder are lazy and don’t work hard.”

She waved a hand in a gesture that managed to be both dismissive and polite.

” These Anglos don’t know what hard work is,” Medina said, and gave the rug a huge, final whack. She tosses the broom into the back of her  rattling grey van.

“Come with me to the Dollar Store, chica,” she said as she climbed in.

“¿Hacer enchiladas esta noche?” I asked hopefully,” Yo compre la avcado.”

“No enchiladas for you, gringa loco,” Medina said. “For you there will only be very, very hot chiles. And nothing at all to drink.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “That gets funnier every time you say it. And your engine light is on again.”

Medina cursed as we peeled out of the Projects parking lot. Her son has been warning her that her van will die “any minute now Mom.” But she still drives like a maniac. silver-city-new-mexico-jack-pumphrey

Life in Silver City was not easy for Latino people. Almost all who flocked to work the mines of the mountain town  were of Mexican descent, but at least half of them had never been south of the Rio Grande.  Their roots were deep in  New Mexico.  As for Mexican nationals, they saw themselves in the same nation so many lives had been lost to free.

Anglos didn’t care about such distinctions, they just knew a Mexican when they saw one, and lumped everyone together. Juggling this surreal and frankly traumatic contradiction  was part of the price of dealing with Anglos.  Essentially,  Latinos were allowed to live and work in their own land because they were cheap labor – and they were reminded of that every day in countless ways.


   Each of  Ortilla’s children grew up fast and had  large families – Medina has 30 cousins – and all of them struggled. Her  uncles  worked in the mines, and 26 years after their mother had laid her first slab of concrete,  there was still no electricity or water in the shacks that were their homes. The mining company housing was intended to keep Latinos out of Silver City proper as much as possible, and they were segregated when they did make the short trip in.

White miners lived in  seperate housing  equipped with plumbing and electricity. They worked in separate crews doing the best jobs during the best hours, and received almost twice the pay of Latino miners. They were even provided a separate pay window so that they wouldn’t have to stand in line with Latino miners.

Something had to give. And it  did.

In 1953, the Latino miners of Silver City astonished both the mining industry and the labor movement by striking. Latino workers had long been viewed as too passive to pose a threat to the former nor to play a leading role in the latter.

Not only did they strike, but they won – and they did it during a period when most of the Left was, well,  hiding out.

Not only did they win, but they did that by relying upon Silver City’s Latino women. Another gripe the labor movement had with Latino workers was the hopelessly traditional gender roles from which they could never be budged.

Ha!. Yet another stereotype smashed.


Just  a few months after the miner’s victory in early 1954, a trio of filmmakers arrived in Silver City. They had been blacklisted by Hollywood’s shameless capitulation to the McCarthy Era’s communist witch hunts, but their supporters had secretly raised enough money to fund a modest budget – and they aimed to spend it on a film about the Empire Zinc Mine. The name of the film was The Salt of the Eartb.

It was the only film that has ever been banned by and from the United States . While it circled the globe winning one award after another, Americans remained generally unaware of it. Those who did learn about the film were remarkably uninterested, as the nation was absorbed with backyard bomb shelters, electrocuting Jewish spies, and hunting down the terrorist wave of  TV and  movie writers hiding out in Hollywood’s labyrinth of secret communist cells.




The Salt of the Earth made history in more ways than one. The miners wrote much of the script, rejected whatever they believed did not represent them, acted, and coordinated publicity efforts.

Only three professional actors were used. The leading lady was deported to Mexico before shooting was completed and the leading man was a Latino miner. The production crew was shot at, and government helicopters hovered over the set. The filmmakers finally had to make a run for it in the middle of the night.

The Salt of the Earth also became a proud part of the Gallegos-Medina family history. Two of  Otilla’s sons and a daughter acted in the film and worked on the script. And although Patricia Medina wasn’t born until 1959, she traces a direct line straight from her grandmother, uncles and aunt to a lettuce field in northern California in 1973 –  and a strong fourteen-year-old girl marching beside Cesar Chavez.




♦ How the strike was won

♦ How the film was made

Salt of the Earth


When Otille Gallegos was growing  up in Augua Pieta,  the city was defended by its greatest heroes :  Revolutionay  Mexican soldiers like those shown above, whose fiery courage and passion for freedom  brought down a major world power. Mexicans still sing  the songs written by their great-grandfathers  to  honor the women




“Let’s see..there’s three gates to the north, three gates to the south….” / Claire O’Brien 2013


 Oh, what a beautiful City! Oh, what a beautiful City!

Oh, what a beautiful City! Twelve gates to the City, Halleluia!


12,000 Hits Later, O’Brien (see above subtle symbolism) Mulls and Plans her Comeback

 I’ve decided to combine my 12,000 Hit Celebration with some cards I’ve shared with only two or three people. I received them four years ago in 2010,  when I was a print reporter for the Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, during a State Supreme Court First Amendment case and murder trial. I’m sharing only those cards that were not confidentially sent – most of the Latino community feared, with good cause, reprisal for supporting me.



From a source


I was defamed by an unholy alliance of corporate media, neoliberal First Amendment groups, most particularly the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press (Director LUCY DAGLISH), and the state. Newer readers who are interested in what happened would honor me by reading Jeff Nyguyen’s post in his impressive blog, Deconstructing Myths.

I’ll also list my own selections from this blog’s archives at the end of this post.


From Dennis and Mary Lou Doris

ΔΦΔ ________ Δ _________ ΔΦΔ

I haven’t shared these cards for a number of reasons. First of all, I have been very publically and shamelessly called a liar by some powerful people. Thus, I have kept these expressions of community support close to my heart: I wasn’t willing to submit them to the disrespectful and ruthless public scrutiny that had destroyed my best professional and personal efforts.

These days, though, I’m thinking that I want to share more than my anger about what it means to be defamed. Defamation is a  word that makes it sound as if mean-spirited gossip has hurt one’s feelings. But that’s not what it is. Real defamation WORKS: it gathers momentum, as it’s intended to, until people believe it. And if they don’t believe it, they believe something is/was unsavory and/or not quite right about you. In the end, to really defame someone, you have to get at the heart of their character in some fundamental way: you can’t portray them as truthful in every other aspect of their life – and yet a huge liar re. one nationally -known, professionally pivotal incident.  Since they are telling the truth, you have to discredit their essential personhood in order to ensure that they will remain permanently discredited.


There’s three gates to the north, three gates to the south,

Three gates to the east, three gates to the west.

In all, there’s twelve gates to the city, halleluia!



Δ ________________ Δ



 ____________________  …

I don’t know if it’s considered unprofessional to publish cards of support. After four years of struggle, I think I’ve worried too much about those kinds of standards – I think they may be a kind of trap. I decided that I should document more than what was done to me, more than my political and professional anger about it. I decided that I could also document what it really feels like to be a truthful reporter who has really been defamed. Maybe people don’t have a clear sense of what that means; if so, that’s something I can contribute.

___<> ___<> __ <> ___







When I get there, I’m gonna sing and shout.

Ain’t nobody gonna put me out.

Oh what a beautiful city!

Oh. what a beautiful city, Halleluia!

Traditional Spiritual


Special note: what I get when I now attempt to reach University of Maryland attorney Laura Anderson, with whom I had been in touch re. my legal complaints about above-named Lucy Dalglish

The following message to <landerso@mail.umd.edu> was undeliverable.
The reason for the problem:
5.3.0 –  Sender denied

I would really appreciate emails sent to this corporate lawyer supporting my right to acknowledgement and redress. Thanks very much.