Online Edition: February 2006     Vol. XVIII, No. 6

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.

Modesto Peace/Life Center
Annual Meeting

720 13

 8:00 AM          — Coffee and Conversation

 9:00 AM          — Business Meeting:

  • Financial Report

  • Committee Reports

  • Election of Board Members

  • Discussion:
    Action plans, ideas and strategies

For 35 years the Modesto Peace/Life Center has been a meeting place for people concerned about peace, justice, equality, and a sustainable environment.

While the Center is most widely known for it’s opposition to war, opening as an information center for those facing the military draft during the Viet Nam War, Center programs have focused on educating ourselves and others on government policies and worked to make our community and our world a more peaceful and equitable place.

Our newsletter was published for 19 years providing information on local peace and justice events and was, during the California Nuclear (energy) War of 1970s and ‘80s, a trusted source of information about nuclear power and alternative energy .

The newsletter was replaced in 1989 by Stanislaus Connections. Expanding to newspaper format allowed us to invite more of the community to submit articles and calendar items.

From the first, the Center hosted other organizations: National Organization for Women, Friends Outside, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Committee, Stanislaus Safe Energy Committee (the proposed East Stanislaus/Waterford nuclear reactor was not built!), campaign headquarters for statewide initiatives such as the Nuclear Freeze and the bottle bill (recycling), a Sierra Club consultant working on water issues, and, currently, the League of Women Voters, American Civil Liberties Union, and a new gay/lesbian rights group, among others.

The Modesto/Peace Life Center, as with any other volunteer organization, is only as strong and diverse as those committed to working together.


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

African American Meditation: The Revolution of the Lumpenproletariat


Years ago a poet said that the revolution will not be televised. The revolution he spoke of was a revolution of the mind, one in which the shackles and the detritus of slavery and colonization would be cast aside, a conscious, caring, committed, self-determining man and woman emerging from the ashes, radiant new beings, the ka-ba-akh* of a new paradise, both standing together, facing the uncertainty of the future with a victorious attitude, their faith welling up within their hearts, holding on to their dreams, trusting each other, and working to make the world a better place for all of us.

(The Ancient Egyptians believed that after death the self survived as a complex of three spirit forms. With life gone from the khat or body, the ba or ‘soul of movement’ and the ka or ‘soul of sustenance’ manifested themselves. The third spirit form, the akh, was thought of as the totality of the transfigured self and possessed the divine power to transform itself into different modes of existence. The ba, demonstrating both the identity of the individual and the attribute of mobility, took the form of a human head on the body of a bird while the ka was considered the double of the person concerned. It was through this spirit form that sustenance for the whole complex was maintained.)

 The revolution WAS televised. It was a different revolution, a revolution of the lumpenproletariat, the most degraded part of society, the criminals and all the other people without any consciousness, an exaltation of the parasites, and a festival of unrestrained behavior that is still going on.

The collective aspirations and hopes of the oppressed were set aside, and the ruinous agenda of the lumpenproletariat emerged and cooperated with the mass media to manufacture new stereotypes of the black man and woman. The black man is now somehow seen as the admired pariah, as a menacing gangster, as hustler and as pimp, and black women have been typecast as scantily-clad, sexy furniture, as a shameless, greedy fashion accessory for self-loathing and degradation, voluptuaries of the televised age, chasing after short-term pleasures. We’re talking about thugism and gangsterism; how can those kinds of people ever be role models for our children? Those kinds of people never care about anybody; they prey upon the defenseless; they corrupt our children; they drag us down. Racism claims we’re guilty without being charged, guilty simply because we exist, guilty for no reason at all, and now many of my people are cooperating with that idea by making it come true, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why do we do this? Do we ever think about what we are doing? Why do we let ourselves become the instruments of our own demise? Why do we let the juggernaut of predatory capitalism define us and shape our values? Why don’t we question the status quo? Why don’t we define for ourselves?

The hopes and dreams of the oppressed are no different from the concerns of people all over the world: to be able to live comfortably in a nice place where our children are safe, to be able to get a decent education, and to have a career or a business that let us take care of our families, all in a land where justice prevails and life is better. Those are things many of us used to talk about and work for, but now we’re almost fatally distracted by the entertainment industry, even though the job of making this place better is far from complete.

I have come not to condemn anybody, but to help us battle against the vile demon that is our self-hatred. We all can change; the criminal can reform his ways; the woman who sells herself can reclaim her modesty and be transformed. For that matter, none of us is perfect; we all need redemption. We all need salvation. We all need the help that family, friends, community, and the sustainer of all things offers us. Joy comes in the morning, the middle of the day, and in the evening time. Change, positive change, can and does happen. It happens all the time, but isn’t televised.

Another poet said “you’ve taken my blues and gone.” What would that poet say today, in a world where we are carelessly throwing our blues and our jazz aside, neglecting them, ignoring them in favor of the homogenized, bleached-out sound of musically accompanied sleepwalking, or the rapacious, rhythmic prattle that talks loud, but says nothing.

Where is that plaintive cry?

Where is that bold expression?

Where is the eloquence?

Where is the joy in that?

Where is the freedom?

Where is the soul in that?

We have a sad situation in which what was once the pulpit authority of the church has been supplanted, overtaken by the mass marketed doggerel and gibberish of those who do not have a life-giving perspective. Celebrating their ignorance, focusing on materialism, sensualism, male chauvinism, misogyny, and an anti-intellectual approach to living, the lumpenproletariat is in ascendancy, rising to prominence during this time, its spokespersons spouting forth artless pronouncements about life in the streets and in the bedroom.

Even in the church, the mind is often neglected, because too many of the preachers are not able to interpret the liberation offered in the holy word. Instead, they often focus on the same things as the lumpen, on a corrupt message that confuses emotionalism with spirituality and claims that physical well-being, financial gain and worldly possessions are strictly matters of faith, pretending that God is some sort of cosmic puppet willing to do our bidding.

Shouting with joy and with realized truth is beautiful, but it needs to happen because the soul is being fed, a shout that brings relief from the troubles of this world, a shout that gives us the strength to stand up against evil, a shout that gets us up and puts feet on our dreams.

Where are the stories of triumph?

How can we learn how to conquer our fears? Where are we supposed to learn about resisting temptation? Where are we supposed to hear about putting away worry? Where do we go in order to sustain our hope? Where is the life-giving word?

Where are the prophets? Where are the ones who call us back to reclaim ourselves? Where are the ones who stand in front of the relentless forces of destruction, confusion, devastation, and genocide, and tell those forces to get back, to go away?

Where is the consciousness? Where is our sense of personal and collective identity? Where are those who question the attitudes, beliefs, and sensitivities held by this lumpenproletariat? Where is our faith? Where is our love of self? Where is our purpose? Where is our unity? Where is our self-determination? Where is our cooperation? Where is our pride, dignity, and self-respect? Love of freedom runs deep in us. Deep is that river, but where is that love? Where is our love for doing justice, for loving mercy, for standing on the shoulders of the ancestors, and for walking with the creator?

What can we share with someone else who is truly in need? What is the greatest good?

What is the best thing one can own or possess? What is the greatest good and highest value in life?

What has happened cannot be changed. We cannot afford to be trapped by mistakes we have made already, but we can certainly learn from our past.

It is always time to move forward, to hold fast to dreams, to keep on pushin’, to press ever onward in our ongoing evolution. Time to be, time to recognize who we really are, time to look forward, time to remember those on whose shoulders we stand.

© Paul Rigmaiden

The responsibility of freedom is to be responsible


The United States of America, according to activist, actor, artist and author Russell Means, “is the most irresponsible country in the world.”

He went on to say, “The first lesson of freedom is that [people] are free to be responsible.”

“How dare you not be responsible?” he challenged during the 12th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration held last month in the new Mary Stuart Rogers Student Learning Center at Modesto Junior College West Campus. How can you allow “your country to go down the tubes so your kids can wear Reeboks, buy cell phones, be free advertisements for corporate America?”

He was inspired by the writings and speeches of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to know himself, and from Mohammed Ali, who he considers the greatest individual of the 20th century; he learned “your past is your future.”

“When I found out about my past, about the beauty of my people,” he said, “I was no longer confused.” He encouraged people to “celebrate their heroes everyday of the year” and use that inspiration to take personal responsibility for their lives.

The most important lesson to teach young people, according to Means, is to respect their relatives’ visions and to believe they are related to all life.

The life long indigenous and constitutional rights activist told of seeing and experiencing with his family “the denigration of America...the deceit.” He spoke of how his parents had been kidnapped and sent to Christian and government boarding schools where they had no control over their education.

“Who gives you the right,” he asked, “ to send your kids to schools you don’t control?” He remembered his school years as a time when education was locally funded with no federal moneys, where each school was autonomous and not part of a district, and where parents had input and control over their children’s education.

He credited his grandmother throughout his talk for instilling within him the lessons of freedom and responsibility. He was “taught to wake up each day to be the best person he could possibly be.” Later at public school he learned he was supposed to do whatever it took to be “the boss” over other people.

In the America in which he grew up “children ran free, made up their own games and rules.” Children could go out into the neighborhoods without constant supervision, were allowed self-determination and an environment where they could learn how to be responsible. Now children live in cities where all of their movements are guarded and monitored, where they are not given the choices, which promote personal confidence and responsibility.

The native-born Oglala/Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near the Black Hills in South Dakota, which Means called “the holy lands”, explained he was the product of a matriarchal family, community and nation. He was born into a culture, which does not revere one gender over another, but celebrates the strengths of both sexes.

“America is something you have to study,” he said. There were “no founding fathers,” he explained. “The founding mothers were the basis of this country’s freedoms.”

Means pointed out “only one-eighth of the adult population chooses the leadership in this country,” and charged that it’s not a free country, when 40% of those running for Congress run unopposed.

He is a registered Republican, because “they are fighters. All you have to do is steer them in the right direction.”

He charged his listeners with “doing something about the Congressional deficit, and he questioned the responsibility of a country which “has invaded 17 countries in the last 40 years” and whose politicians are “continually going to prison.”

Citing the devastating role of poverty in this country, he considers Lyndon B. Johnson, the only president to empower poor people with his anti-poverty program, as this country’s greatest president.

The actor likened Washington, DC to Hollywood, saying they are both “like a brick wall” and “you either smash your head up against it or walk away from it and do your own thing.”

When Means was asked during his bid for the presidency as a Libertarian candidate what his first act as president might be, he said with a big smile, “I’d paint that house red!”

About Mr. Means: Means is the father of 15 children and has 20 some grandchildren and 4 great grand children. He joined the American Indian Movement in 1969, became the group’s first national director, and continues to fight for Indian rights with the organization to this day. He worked over 12 years with the United Nations, has starred in numerous feature films, and has written a best-selling autobiography, “Where White Men Fear to Tread.” He continues to be an active political voice addressing the civil rights issues of today, and has lectured throughout the United States and worldwide. His famous talk, “For America to Live Europe Must Die”, has been included in America’s top 100 speeches.”

Russell Means website, click here

Help families and children after a disaster


On Friday and Saturday, March 3-4, 2006, there will be a training workshop for men and women who are interested in qualifying to become certified to work at Red Cross and FEMA centers with the Disaster Child Care program. Child caregivers set up a safe, area with a calm environment where children traumatized by earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane, etc. can spend time with adults who can provide comfort, encouragement and understanding to youngsters while parents are involved in taking the next step to getting their lives back in order.

Disaster Child Care is a national ecumenical network of volunteers who are committed to helping families and comfort children who are victims of a disaster. In its over 25-year history, thousands of children have been served. Many Child Care teams of men and women recently have been busy in many areas of our country with major as well as less publicized disasters. The need for caregivers is great!

The training workshop will be at the Modesto Church of the Brethren and is open to anyone willing to be trained and willing to spend a weekend in a simulated Red Cross disaster center sleeping on cots or floor mats and sharing simple meals. Registration fee is $45 for all meals and one overnight.

ACTION: Because space is limited to 25 participants, sign up as soon as possible. Invite others! You may get registration forms on the website below or in the Modesto Church of the Brethren office, 2301 Woodland Ave., Modesto 95358. Leadership will come from the DCC office in New Windsor, Maryland, and from the Red Cross. For complete information and registration form go to

Coming soon: The Left Hand of God – Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right


The Stanislaus Chapter of the Network of Spiritual Progressives announces the upcoming publication, on February 7, 2006, of a major book presenting the core vision of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP). The Left Hand of God – Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right by Michael Lerner, founder of NSP, is an important step in raising consciousness in the United States. A presentation on the first chapter of the book and group discussion is planned during the next NSP meeting, Thursday, February 9th, 7:00 p.m., at the Modesto Church of the Brethren, 2301 Woodland Avenue, Modesto.

From the reviews:

“A practical, compelling vision of a politics of generosity. The book is a freshness beyond quarrelsome ideology and liberal cliché.” — Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

 “Michael Lerner’s insightful and visionary thinking has already had a profound impact on American culture and thought.” —Jim Wallis, N.Y.Times bestselling author of God’s Politics

“Michael Lerner is the most prophetic intellectual and spiritual leader of our generation.” — Cornel West, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight against Imperialism

 “A brilliant and penetrating analysis of the way religion is now used politically to justify military conflict, the degradation of the environment, the violation of religious liberty, the rights of women and homosexuals, and the accumulation of vast wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people. – John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate in Search of the God of Love

“American desperately needs a revitalization of spirit to lend wisdom and compassion to our economic and political life. The Left Hand of God challenges all of us to embrace our deep interconnectedness and become partners in the healing and transformation of the world.” — Richard Gere

ACTION: If you would purchase the book during by February 21st from a major bookseller or online, that will help place it on the bestseller list and in that very significant way contribute to the transformation of the political process in this country.

The Modesto Renaissance and the Stanislaus PRIDE Center


Chief Financial Officer, Stanislaus PRIDE Center

As a Modesto native, with family in town for nearly a hundred years, I have heard many stories about the Modesto of yesteryear. Longtime residents express a sense of pride in the city’s culture, history and traditions. But the region has also seen its share of transformations. During my own lifetime, the changes have been driven especially by rapid population growth.

I remember going through parts of downtown Modesto as a kid (in the 1980s), thinking, “This place is like a ghost town.” Yet other, newer areas of the city were growing. That paradox — a rapidly growing city with no identifiable central area — began to be resolved in the 1990s. The convention center and its adjacent high-rise hotel and offices helped inspire more businesses to make their home downtown. New restaurants, clubs and shops soon filled in the cityscape.

The construction of cultural centers continues. Soon, Modesto will have a renovated State Theater and the new Gallo Arts Center. These will be joined by the Tuolumne River Regional Park, a project now just in its infancy. Such development is key to the maturing process of Modesto and surrounding areas. I think of this new maturity as a welcome renaissance.

New community-based organizations that provide essential services to local residents have also risen during this time of growth. Such groups do a lot of good and necessary work, including the publisher of Stanislaus Connections, the Peace/Life Center. The Stanislaus PRIDE Center (SPC) is but the latest addition to this collection of service providers.

The SPC exists to provide informational, educational and cultural resources in a safe and positive environment to support, strengthen and celebrate the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) persons in the greater Modesto area — a population estimated at 25,000. To fulfill this mission, the SPC is working to secure a physical facility to serve as a community hub. It will be a place to provide both SPC-run services and meeting space and support for current and new GLBT groups. We aim to have the physical center in place by the end of 2006.

Despite the current lack of location, the SPC has begun fulfilling its mission. Online visitors to its website (www.stanislauspridecenter com) have access to local GLBT news, a community calendar of GLBT events and links to local and national resources. The site also features the SPC Equality Pages, a downloadable directory of GLBT-friendly businesses and organizations. All of this information is regularly updated.

Starting in February, the SPC will hold bimonthly transgender support group meetings. Run by transgender people for transgender people, the group will begin to fill the void for this vastly underserved population. Meanwhile, SPC Programs and Services is working to facilitate low-cost/free GLBT counseling services and will soon be promoting an educational outreach program for regional businesses, organizations and educators.

The Stanislaus PRIDE Center needs the support of the community to exist. Interest in the SPC has come rapidly, and growth has followed just as quickly. For the SPC to succeed over the long haul, this momentum must be maintained.

ACTION: For more information, please call 209-567-3121 or visit Together, we can further encourage the renaissance of Modesto and make the city and surrounding areas even better places for everyone.

Privacy issues in 2006

From the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

The USA PATRIOT Act is yet again up for renewal, biometric technologies are on the rise, and students are being used as the guinea pigs for the next generation of privacy-invading policies. Issues both new and familiar will be making their way into the privacy debate in 2006.

Future of REAL ID: In 2005 Congress quietly passed a law to turn the state drivers license into a national ID card without a hearing or a vote. But REALID opponents are gathering support and the Department of Homeland Security may face a real battle when federal officials start saying to US citizens, “your papers, please.”

“Welcome to the US. Fingerprints, please.” The United States is dramatically expanding the collection of fingerprints, particularly for visitors to the United States. The US-VISIT program is set to take the fingerprints of every foreign visitor to the United States. But the inaccuracies of fingerprint identification, and the ease with which fingerprint scanners can be fooled, continue to plague fingerprint ID systems.

Workplace Privacy: The computer you use at work belongs to your employer; the time you spend at work belongs to your employer—who does your privacy belong to? Increasingly, companies are placing surveillance measures in the workplace, either to provide security or to monitor productivity. In 2006, the high court of Massachusetts will decide whether a public employer could secretly install video cameras to watch its employees. As cameras become more ubiquitous inside and outside the workplace, it will be come more and more likely that some Little Brother will be watching you as well.

Student Privacy: Schools are becoming the new frontline in the battle over privacy. RFID vendors are pressing schools to mandate spychip-equipped student IDs. Metal detectors, cameras, and more invasive searches are also becoming more commonplace. Nor is students’ information privacy safe from invasion. Increasingly, students are encouraged to give up their personal information in school where it is relayed to third parties for marketing and recruiting purposes. But students and parents are fighting back. Last year, a spychip plan in California failed and parents rallied against the Defense Department recruitment database. Look for the protest to go online in 2006.

Location Tracking: Highway administrators in the US and UK are looking for new ways to measure traffic flow and decrease congestion, as well as collect taxes on the use of roads. This has led to the development of many vehicle tracking systems, based either on roadside license plate readers or on tracking the movement of signals sent by drivers’ phones. While some programs delete the personally identifying data from the cell-tracking systems, implications for “mission creep” are clear, since several recent cases show that law enforcement is making more use of mobile phone tracking as an investigative tool.

New Revelations About Government Datamining: It was not long ago that John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness was brought to an end. But datamining in the federal government didn’t stop. It went underground. In 2006 there will be new and surprising revelations about the scope of government datamining and the amount of personal information on American citizens that is being collected by the private sector and handed over to the government.

Wiretapping the Internet: 2006 will see a major debate over wiretapping and the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission wants to apply a 1994 law intended for wiretapping the telephone network to new communication services on the Internet. But privacy groups and communications companies object. A federal court will have to decide next year whether the government could some day regulate computer software.

DNA Databases and Genetic Privacy: Legislation Police are stepping up efforts to build DNA profiling databases. The hope is that these measures will allow investigators to compare DNA found at a crime scene against a database of known individuals. The danger is that the chance of false positives may be downplayed, and that ordinary citizens would be forced to divulge their DNA profiles with no evidence of any wrongdoing. In other matters, state regulators are coming to grips with the risk that people’s genetic information may be used to discriminate against them, if their genes show tendencies towards health problems or disabilities. Regulations on genetic privacy could be forthcoming in the states next year, as well as in the US Congress.

Data Broker Regulation: With security breaches on the rise and the cost of identity theft passing the $50b mark, Congress will almost certainly act in 2006 on data broker legislation. Not only are legislators concerned with requiring companies to disclose data breaches, many are arguing for increased oversight of the largely unregulated data broker industry.

About EPIC

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research center in Washington, DC, was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging privacy issues such as the Clipper Chip, the Digital Telephony proposal, national ID cards, medical record privacy, and the collection and sale of personal information. EPIC publishes the EPIC Alert, pursues Freedom of Information Act litigation, and conducts policy research.

ACTION: For more information, visit or write EPIC, 1718 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20009, (202) 483-1140.


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.