Online Edition: January 2006     Vol. XVIII, No. 5

sponsored by Peace Life Center, Public invited

  • End the War, Bring the Troops Home, End the Occupation.  Bring candles or signs:  Vigil on Friday, Jan. 20th at 4:30-5:30 at McHenry and Briggsmore in Modesto.  For Info, call the Center, 529-5750

  • Vigil Friday, Feb 24th, 4:30 to 5:30, Standiford and Sisk.
  • PEACE LIFE CENTER WILL BE OPEN EVERY TUESDAY, Noon to 3 pm. Come by for coffee or tea and just to chat or look at our book and magazine collection. Bring your own bag lunch; there may be films some days. 720 13th St. Call us 529-5750, we'll get back to you with info on vigils and other activities.


Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 


Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

John McCutcheon Concert Wednesday Jan. 25


It’s January, and in Modesto, January means John McCutcheon whose lively music warms the heart, lifts the spirit, and sends concert-goers out feeling connected to each other and hopeful about being able to take positive action to change the direction the world is heading.

This year’s Peace/Life Center Benefit Concert, at the Modesto Church of the Brethren 2301 Woodland Ave. on Wednesday, January 25 at 7:00 p.m. will feature two musicians named John, one seasoned and much-acclaimed, one who’s just starting down the path. Folk musician John McCutcheon has delighted local audiences for the past four years. Opening for him is 19 year-old John Bruce, whose music has created quite a local stir, with a 2005 Modesto Area Music Association (MAMA) nomination and an enthusiastic following in local music venues.

John McCutcheon’s music is about hope, hope that it’s possible to focus on something other than self, that ordinary folks working together can bring about change, that the human spirit triumphs over all that tries to squelch it, and that any day now the high and mighty could have their comeuppance.

The concert will feature brand-new songs as well as old favorites, traditional folk music, and what McCutcheon calls “short self-life classics” on current political topics. His latest CD, Mightier Than the Sword, is a wedding of literature and song, inspired by the writings of favorite authors, including Barbara Kingsolver, Rita Dove, Wendell Berry, Pablo Neruda, and Woody Guthrie. In 2006, John’s powerful song, Christmas in the Trenches, will be published in revised form as a children’s picture book, and more picture books are planned.

Song Circle participants have glimpsed “a young John McCutcheon-type” in John Bruce, who has previously written for the Peace Essay Contest and sung and played at the Peace Camp Talent Show. He feels it’s an honor to open for John McCutcheon because “the things John McCutcheon sings about are important to me, songs like his, on timeless topics that tap into real life experiences, live for a very long time.”[See biography and some of Bruce’s lyrics on page 9, this issue.]

ACTION: Advance concert tickets: $17; $20 at the door, $5 for young people 17 and younger, available at the Modesto Church of the Brethren, 2301 Woodland Ave., Modesto, 523-1438 or Anderson Gallery, 1823 J St., Modesto 579-9913.

John McCutcheon’s web site is

John Bruce’s site is

Indian activist to speak at King Commemoration


Russell Means, American Indian activist, will speak at the 12th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration on Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Leaning Center, Modesto Junior College’s West Campus 2201 Blue Gum Ave.

This community event is free to the public.

Russell Means was born an Oglala/Lakota in 1939, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near the Black Hills. Mr. Means is a life long indigenous rights/constitutional rights activist, actor, artist and author. His best selling autobiography Where White Men Fear to Tread is currently on its 8th printing. Russell has spoken at major universities in the United States, England and around the world. In the late 60s he began fighting for Indian rights with the American Indian Movement (AIM) and became its first national director.

In 1991, Russell began his career in Hollywood starring in numerous feature films including The Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis. He has recorded two albums, and started his own production company. Russell continues the fight for self-determination of indigenous peoples through the media to reach millions.

Russell continues to be an active political voice. His most famous speech delivered at the Black Hills International Survival Gathering in 1980, “For America to Live Europe Must” has been included in America's top 100 speeches. He has recently spoken out against the Iraq war.

Mr. Means and his wife have begun construction on the TREATY Immersion School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Patterned after the unique immersion concept of schooling developed by the Maori of New Zealand, it is a program approach to teaching by focusing on culturally centered private schools for grades K through 3 for an indigenous population. Total immersion into the root culture's language, art, dance, music, science and oral tradition grounded the children in their identity and rich heritage. The self-esteem engendered through these private schools empowered the Maori children to succeed at the top levels of academia and athletics after they entered public schools.

This program of remembrance for Martin Luther King, Jr. is sponsored by City of Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Dept.; King-Kennedy Center; Modesto Peace/Life

Center; Modesto Junior College; California State University, Stanislaus; Kaiser Permanente, Frailing, Rockwell & Kelly; Modesto Irrigation District, the Modesto Bee; Assoc. Students of MJC, State Farm Insurance, McDonalds, Stanislaus Chapter; AARP; CSU Stanislaus Student Union Multi-Cultural Program; Valley BMW, Valley Lexus, and Valley Infinity; ASMJC. Additional sponsors are needed and appreciated. For sponsor information, call: (209) 575-7991 or (209) 577-5355.

Russell Means website, click here

Sonora’s Annual MLK event speaker, Tommie Muhammad


Peace and justice issues seen through the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will take center stage in Sonora on Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 2 p.m. at the Sonora High School Auditorium. The Martin Luther King, Jr. 11th Annual Birthday Observance will present speakers, dancers and musicians, and essay contest winners to honor Dr. King’s legacy on his birthday.

After an invocation by a member of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, the featured speaker will be Tommie Muhammad, an African American activist who is Program Manager at Modesto’s Kennedy-King Memorial Center, an organizer of Modesto’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. observance and part time professor of Ethnic Studies at CSU Stanislaus. He will discuss class and race issues raised by Hurricane Katrina as seen through the eyes of an African American.

Dennis Brown, local singer and pianist, will sing a tribute to Rosa Parks, and other musicians will perform, as well as two high school students who will do an interpretive dance to a recording of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Ibrahim Kamara, a Columbia College student from Sierra Leone, will introduce the winners of the essay and creative expression contests. Winners are responding to the question, “How is Dr. King’s message still valid today?”

The event is free to the public. Attendance has grown each year, soaring in the last three years to about 250 community members. Over the years, the programs have been a mixture of readings from Dr. King’s speeches and writings, music and poetry performed by local residents, including the Columbia College Community Chorus, EnChor Community Singers, Dennis Brown and the Sonora Spirit Singers, and actors Rick Foster and Tom McGuire (Duende). Other performers have included Hmong Dancers, Dancers of Universal Peace, Fresno Baha’i Singers and local Tuolumne County students.

“By inviting participants of different ethnicities to participate in the program, the MLK Committee strives to increase the appreciation of diversity in this community,” said Pat Cervelli, another committee member. A woman who attended the event two years ago was quoted in the 1/19/04 Modesto Bee: “I think it’s something we should all do because there’s still discrimination, and it shouldn’t be that way,” said 89-year-old Doris McCormick of Sonora, underscoring the impact of the Sonora observance.

For information, contact Pat Cervelli, 928-3494,

Network of Spiritual Progressives meeting


The Network of Spiritual Progressives has attracted a varied group of people and we welcome those of you who want to find out more what this group is and will be doing.

What is the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP)?

— Summarized by Rob & Helene Schaeffer

We alternate meetings between Tuesday and Thursday to make it easier for those who have other commitments. Our next meetings are: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. at the Modesto Church of the Brethren 2301 Woodland Ave.; Thursday, February 9, 2006; and Tuesday, March 7, 2006.

We thank the Modesto Church of the Brethren for kindly letting us have our meetings there. All are invited. Call Sandy Sample, 523-0445, or email Shelly Scribner or Marianne Villalobos

San Joaquin Community Radio Project seeks support


The University of the Pacific is selling the license for KUOP 91.3 and our community has a unique opportunity to purchase this FM frequency. A group of public-minded citizens, along with the Piece and Justice Network of San Joaquin County are exploring this prospect. The price tag for the license is $4,000,000. We have asked the university for a Request for Proposal (RFP) application.

There is much information to gather and a real need for a sustainable financial commitment from all individuals and organizations interested in putting a community voice back on the air. We need people with related radio business and financial experience (grant writing, fund raising, etc,) to volunteer their time to get the San Joaquin Community Radio Project (SJCRP) up and running or at the very least, to see if we should get into the race.

As the former Production Director for KUOP in Stockton, I understand just how important a strong community radio voice is to all of us.

If you are interested in providing financial resources or donating your expertise, contact me at, or Jim Walsh . Use the abbreviation SJCRP in your email subject line so I can easily identify inquiries directly related to the project.

To subscribe to the listserv for SJCRP, visit

Stanislaus Pride Center seeks help to bring local facility to GLBT community


Vice-President, Stanislaus PRIDE Center

Coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) is challenging. In the Central Valley, it can take extra courage and self-awareness.

GLBTs need a place to go for answers, as well as to meet others like them in a safe and supportive environment. Although there are local bars that are GLBT-friendly, many are not comfortable in this type of environment, and bars are not an option for those under 21.

Groups such as PFLAG (Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays) exist to help GLBTs and their families get through the initial stages of coming out and to provide ongoing support.

PFLAG’s activist component, Liberty Action Network, gives GLBTs additional opportunities to get involved in furthering liberty and justice for all Americans.

GLBT group’s are limited locally by the lack of a readily accessible location to interact on a daily basis. Rental costs for meeting space and social events are costly, and it is difficult to disseminate information without a central community “hub.”

The Stanislaus PRIDE Center (SPC) aims to give the region’s GLBT community the “hub” it desperately needs before the end of 2006. Organizers envision a place where GLBTs of all ages can get information and resources, as well as where existing GLBT groups can provide the services needed by a growing GLBT community.

In addition to helping other service and support providers, there are several services that the PRIDE Center can bring to the community — even before a physical location is established. One of these is the website, , which provides up-to-date GLBT news, a comprehensive GLBT Community Calendar of events and support groups, and a useful link guide to local and national resources.

In addition, the SPC Equality Pages offer a comprehensive directory (PDF file) of GLBT-friendly businesses and organizations. A searchable online version of this directory is pending.

The SPC has several programs in the works, including a transgender support group, to begin meeting in January. Coordinated by transgender people for transgender people, this group will provide specialized care and fellowship for those who have long sought a way to share their struggles with others who understand what they are going through.

Another short-term goal is the facilitating of free/low-cost counseling for GLBTs who need one-on-one therapy. In addition, the SPC plans to work with existing allied programs to expand GLBT educational training for businesses, professionals and schools with the intension of generating more compassion and understanding for GLBTs.

ACTION: To learn more or help the Stanislaus Pride Center, visit or call (209) 567-3121.

Orange Revolution: one year later

Vice-president, Modesto Sister Cities International

A year ago the entire world was watching one of the most dramatic political developments of the 21st century - the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Even those people who are far from being politically active or so literate rooted for the underdog, the opposition movement called Our Ukraine.

What made the Orange Revolution so attractive to the world audiences? Was it the fashionable orange color of the season? Was it the fact that it contained all major ingredients of a classic drama: poisoned opposition leader, his previously Hollywood looks reduced to a swollen and scarred face, the final and peaceful battle against the forces of evil? Sounds reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth combined, doesn’t it?

The answer, in my opinion, may be found in the fact that people around the world rooted for those millions of Ukrainians braving the freezing temperatures to protest the widely and bluntly rigged presidential elections that brought an ex-convict, Viktor Yanukovich, to power. It is inherent to human nature to fight for truth. Or at least to support that battle fought by others. He got nominated by then-outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, who ran the state mafia ring and was implicated in ordering a killing of an opposition journalist Georgy Gongadze. More so, the ex-convict Yanukovich enjoyed openly unequivocal support of the Russian government and business elite. Russian president Vladimir Putin visited the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, twice to aggressively endorse Yanukovich and ensure his presidential ambitions. Can you imagine a Mexican president or a Canadian Prime Minister coming to U.S. and campaign for one of the presidential candidates? Putin, his KGB ringmasters, and big money lost.

The Orange Revolution triumphed! People won the battle for truth and justice! They proved to themselves and to many that millions of dollars from Russia and its corrupt puppets in Ukraine stood no chance compared to the sense of dignity and sincere desire to be free.

What happened next?

The Orange Revolution team formed a new, democratic government. The national mass media gained long-awaited freedom, challenging and criticizing the government became a norm of everyday life. People became extremely elevated and excited. They tasted their own power of choice! Remember, this is after several centuries of Russian and, then, 70 years of Soviet dictatorship

Mistakes of the Orange Revolution

Six months after the Revolution, in the summer of 2005, I spent 7 weeks in Ukraine. I noticed a widespread discontent with the pace of reforms. The new government was supposed to fight the rampant corruption that had reached huge proportions during 10 years of presidential rule by Leonid Kuchma. The government was obligated to clearly demonstrate that the people were in control, that they were not simply used for political and financial gains of a new ruling clan.

When I spoke with people during my extensive trips around the country, most of them admitted with frank disappointment that “not much has changed.” They meant the feeling of powerlessness caused by corruption that breeds lawlessness. They saw the same crooks and swindlers driving, or more often driven, around in luxurious cars, living in and building more lavish multi-storied villas, and completely ignoring the needs and dignity of those they cunningly swindled. People were stunned and outraged that none of those known law breakers were brought to justice. Police and courts remained on the legalized criminals’ payroll.

I was eager to reassure people that “Revolution is not a one-time event, but a long-term process.” I reminded them that in America women won the right to vote only 80 years ago and racial segregation officially ended only some 45 years ago. My arguments did not seem to have an effect on most of my encounters... They wanted to see fast, if not immediate, results of their joint effort in November of 2004.

Then I asked a rather simple question. “What have you personally done to promote and implement the ideals and ideas of Orange Revolution?” Many people were startled by this question. They sincerely were convinced that supporting the protest against the rigged elections was enough to expect a better and fairer life. The problem with this mentality may lie in sticking to old Soviet paradigm that “the government is supposed to care for its people.” Such was the “summer mood” of many Ukrainians expecting the government to fulfill its revolutionary slogans. But that was summertime, with vacations, holidays, orchards and gardens, when the political “living is easy.”

In October I went to visit my father struggling with cancer. Popular mood got graver, along with the weather. Discontent with the new government got wider and deeper. What went specifically wrong?

1. Criminal oligarchs have not been brought to justice, as it was promised during the Orange Revolution. Now they organized a strong opposition of their own.

2. Corruption has not been fought. “Business” continued as usual. The rule of law has not become a priority.

3. New people in power started expropriating the previously expropriated property.

4. Cronyism flourished again. Many of President Yushchenko’s friends and revolutionary comrades were awarded powerful governmental positions without having proper qualification or experience. For example, a former Justice Minister did not have a university education. The president’s own “compadre”, Peter Poroshenko, was appointed National Security Committee secretary.

5. Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was fired in September by President Yushenko. Thus, the Orange Revolution team demonstrated the strong ambitions of its individual members but not their concern about the country and its people.

6. The murder case of journalist Georgy Gongadze has not moved closer to being solved. It is viewed in Ukraine as a symbol of national collective conscience.

7. Consolidated democratic forces that made the Orange Revolution possible have largely dissipated pursuing their own political agendas and financial interest.

Reasons to remain optimistic

• The Orange Revolution triumphed because of Ukraine’s people and not because of its leaders.

• People realized their real own strength. They started forming a truly democratic and civic society. Political and other elected officials now know they have to be much more accountable than even a year ago.

• Historically, the people of Ukraine self-organize in dire times to defend their country, their freedom, and their future.

• The democratic world is fully aware of what is at stake if criminal, neo-communist forces will gain power back.

• Ukraine has moved much closer to joining EU (European Union), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and WTO (World Trade Organization). EU just awarded Ukraine the status of a country with a “free market economy.”

• Americans are no longer required entry visas to visit Ukraine as of July 2005.

Reasons to be alarmed (if “old guard” regains power)

• Parliamentary elections in March of 2006 may bring the criminal pro-Russian oligarchs back to power. If they form a majority they will re- establish the system that prompted 8 million Ukrainians to leave the country in search of means of survival.

• A new constitutional amendment will take away significant amount of power from the president in favor of a prime minister. - If the parliamentary majority is formed by the “old guard,” the ex-convict Yanukovich will likely become new prime minister.

• Yanukovich promised to make Russian the “second official language” of Ukraine.

• Ukraine will definitely fall back in Russia’s iron grip economically, politically, and geopolitically. Isn’t that why Zbignew Brzezinski and Condoleezza Rice both visited Kiev over one-week span?

• The course of democratic reforms in Ukraine will be reversed and thrown many years back.

• Western and Eastern democracies will lose a peace-oriented strategic partner in the vitally important crossroad between Middle East, Russia, Balkans, and European Union.

Upon leaving Ukraine, I asked my friends from Modesto’s sister city of Khmelnitskiy what message they wanted me to deliver to you, dear readers of Stanislaus Connections. “Please thank our American friends for their tireless support of our modest efforts to make this world a peaceful place,” was their answer. Remember, we became friendly sister cities during the time of the “iron curtain” in the Soviet Union 19 years ago!

With best wishes for People-to-People diplomacy in the Happy New Year!

Book exposes seedy side of academia in Las Vegas

TEACHING AMIDST THE NEON PALM TREES, by Lee Ryan Miller; AuthorHouse; 220 pages; $17.50


There's nothing novel - even unusually newsworthy - about bullying, arrogant and corrupt leadership in high places, about insecure and sycophantic middle management and toadying student followers seeking a few left-over crumbs for themselves after the bigger fish finish feasting.
Surely this transpires not only in academia, but in corporations and — Lord knows — on newspapers. Mr. Peter's renowned principle derives from such phenomena, and Scott Adams' Dilbert comic strip amuses more people each day with its pithy observations of corporate excesses.
Readers of  "Teaching Amidst The Neon Palm Trees" will enjoy a sparkling non-fiction chronicle of petty bickering and pettier rivalries by an articulate young scholar blessed with the ability to hold himself at a respectable distance from his abusers and thus retain his perspective and sense of humor.
His account is set in Plastic City, USA, the overheated and underpaying sin and gambling Mecca of Las Vegas. That doesn't hurt the Miller narrative a bit.
With a doctorate in political science from UCLA, a few other experiences in higher education and values that serve him well today as a political activist, Lee Ryan Miller arrives at Community College of Southern Nevada (CCSN) determined to make a difference in the lives of students. His enthusiasm soon gains their respect.
It's not Harvard or Bryn Mawr, mind you. It's not even Cal, Michigan or the U of Nevada.
Miller doesn't say so, but CCSN is an apparently under-funded educational enterprise in a state not noted nationally for its value on higher education, a political hot potato among gaming establishments, like the military giving its prime allegiance to established procedure and The Chain of Command.
At a point in his career where colleagues take roll and compile syllabuses, Lee Miller, PhD, sought to enhance the learning process by creating a summer travel program in which students will visit global leaders and institutions in Europe.

Obviously there's a price tag, and obviously undergrads at the likes of CCSN lack the resources of their Ivy Leagues counterparts. There must be scholarships, financial aid ... and ... well ...
In some 200 tightly written pages, Miller brings readers face to face not only with irrational satraps screaming their rage when feeling bypassed, but with two-faced colleagues who lend support until expedience dictates otherwise and student leaders drunk with their own powers ... powers apparently exercised only in supporting the political status quo.
Now a resident of Modesto CA and a political science instructor at nearby California State University, Stanislaus, Lee Miller might have offered more insight into what motivates these people. We've all known them — all who ever toiled for a paycheck — but we've never felt quite so curious about what makes them tick.
On one hand, maybe they did not reveal themselves. On the other, maybe our heroic young political scientist decided, on advice of his attorney, that discretion remains the best part of valor. A few of his most interesting characters, such as a student stripper, remain unidentified.
Although it's sporadically footnoted, Miller's tome reads more like a film script than a scholarly thesis. You can almost enjoy the byplay of casting the film, the title, which will surely be shortened to "Neon Palms." Where is Bugsy Siegel (Warren Beatty) when you need him?
Miller's $17.50 paperback is available at major bookstores,,, and


Tenth of each month. Submit peace, justice and environmentally friendly event notices to P.O. Box 134, Modesto, CA, 95353, or call 522-4967 or 575-4299, or email to Jim Costello. Free listings subject to space, availability and editing.