Online Edition: April2006     Vol. XVIII, No. 8

sponsored by Peace Life Center, Public invited

  • MODESTO PEACE LIFE CENTER VIGILS: Vigils are held once a month; Friday evenings; call the Center for info: 529-5750.

  • 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.

  • Click here for other Peace Actions around the Valley and Mother Lode


Put these Peaceful dates on your calendar:

June 11 – Pancake Breakfast, benefit for the Modesto Peace/Life Center

June 23-25- Peace Camp, weekend in the High Sierra for people of all ages

ACTION: To volunteer to help, contact the Modesto Peace/Life Center at 529-5750.


San Joaquin Connections--Our Sister Publication to the North--April Issue (pdf)

Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 


Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices--Lynn Hansen

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

Can’t throw anything away? ReStore and A.R.T.S are for you


Too many buttons and bows? Have a spare basin or bathtub? Want to walk your environmentally and socially responsible talk? Donate all that extra “stuff” to the Habitat for Humanity of Stanislaus ReStore, or to A.R.T.S, All Recycled Things, educational resource center.

ReStore, a discount remodeling supply store specializing in quality, gently used and brand new building materials for remodeling and repair projects, is located at 423 7th St. in Modesto and is open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

During a recent visit to the ReStore I first came upon a stack of large finished granite countertops. Inside the divided building, I found a plethora of shelves filled with hardware and tools, knobs and hinges, hooks and tile, paint and glue, sinks and bathtubs, fastenings and fixtures, plumbing, windows, carpeting and more than there is room to mention here. In a two-story section there was cabinetry, furniture, lighting and artwork for the finishing touches.

Everything is 50 to 75 percent off retail prices, and proceeds support Habitat for Humanity building projects. The local organization, working under the motto, “Building Hope, Building Communities, One Nail at a time...”started its first home in 1989. This January, the 23rd family moved into their newly built home, and 67 children are being raised in safe, comfortable environments. Plans call for the development of Hope Village in West Modesto, a 20 single-family subdivision.

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If it’s art and crafts and science supplies you’re in need of or want to unload, A.R.T.S., All Recycled Things, is the place for you. The center, a partnership with Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Arts Commission, is located in the S.C.O.E. Media Center, 917 Oakdale Road, behind the Scenic and Oakdale shopping center in what is left of County Center 3.

In 1999 Ann Dutton, retired Modesto Junior College child development teacher, founded this reincarnation of the Repo Depo started by Betty Jean Reynolds many years ago, to provide free art and science project supplies to classroom teachers and others who work with children and adults.

Supplies, from local businesses and private individuals, have included such items as bows from florist shops, tag board from MJC, fabric scraps from the Quilters Guild, cardboard rings, styrofoam and paper discs from the Hershey Company, matte board from frame shops, wood scraps from the Wood Crafters Guild and an assortment of buttons, beads, cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls, plastic bags and just anything that can augment hands-on creative activities.

Sample art ideas are on display at the center, and donations of clean, reusable or new materials are always welcome. Supplies are used to make hand-made musical instruments, science projects, collages, simple sorting and other games, hand made gifts and anything creative.

ACTION: To learn more about Habitat for Humanity or about donating or purchasing materials at the ReStore call (209) 572-2060 ( Information about A.R.T.S. is available at 657-4516 (

Check out Wall of Hope at MJC


In our consumerist society where possessions and prestige are often more important than service to people or society, and where movie stars, fashion favorites, or athletes become the celebrity icons given most attention, it’s hard to keep focused on what’s truly of value and to find uplifting role models. But the Wall of Hope Exhibit on Nonviolence that opens at the Modesto Junior College Library on April 10 will help sharpen our outlook.

The Wall of Hope will be a 20 – 30 foot long visual display of many people and movements that throughout history have worked nonviolently for peace, social justice, and environmental sanity. It will include well-known struggles like the Civil Rights Movement and César Chávez’s United Farmworkers Union, and people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Desmond Tutu, as well as lesser-known people and movements like Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Ky, Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement, and Kathy Kelly with Voices in the Wilderness, who broke U.S law to take medicine and school supplies to the people of Iraq during the sanctions and has spoken out strongly against the U.S. invasion and occupation.

At the heart of the exhibit is the belief that in a world beset with violence, those who have experimented with nonviolence have sown seeds of hope: their lives, their work, their sacrifices, and their accomplishments show there is a way to resolve conflict and injustice other than through physical force and military might.

The Wall of Hope is a project of the students in Dan Onorato’s English 101 and Sandra Woodside’s Sociology 101 Learning Community classes. Art Professor Dr. Richard Serros is creating the graphic design. Pictures, brief biographies, and quotations arranged aesthetically will present the essential significance of nearly 50 people and organizations dedicated to nonviolent social change.

The goal of the exhibit, besides being a way for the Learning Community students to learn about nonviolence, is to provide an educational history of nonviolence and its heroes and heroines for the campus and wider Modesto community. The exhibit will spark thought and reflection on extraordinary men and women who have embodied imagination, courage, and tenacious faith in using nonviolent methods to end injustice, war, and environmental degradation.

An interactive aspect of the exhibit will be the creation of a thousand cranes. Some multi-colored cranes will be hung near the beginning of the panel structure. A basket will be placed nearby with directions and paper and an invitation to visitors to stop and make a crane to add to the hanging fixture of peace cranes. Gradually cranes will be added until we get 1,000. In the Japanese story Sadako and a Thousand Cranes, the belief is that when number 1,000 is reached, the prayer or intention for peace and an end to violence will occur.

ACTION: Visit the exhibit, open to the public, during regular MJC Library hours, Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday 8 to 5; and Saturday, 9 to 5. Teachers, encourage your students to see the exhibit and do projects related to it. Even people who are part of the Peace/Life Center community will learn from this display. May visitors be inspired to learn more and work more diligently for a better society and world.

The Venezuelan process


Part 1 of 2 articles

On February 4th, Venezuelans were out on the streets marching and celebrating the 14th anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s coup attempt against then president Carlos Andres Pérez. There were two marches: supporters of Chávez and those in the opposition. I had traveled to Venezuela for the World Social Forum and was one of many who stayed behind to explore the Bolivarian Revolution.

I had no idea what to expect and was a little put off by the cult of personality we see of Hugo Chávez in the US media. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a level of political and class consciousness among Venezuelans that we lefties could only dream about in the US. There is real change in Venezuela but it did not just spring with Hugo Chávez.

To understand the current socio-political situation and the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, we must know their history. The three most important figures in Venezuelan history are Simón Bolívar, Ezequiel Zamora and Simón Rodríguez (also known as Samuel Robinson).

Simón Bolívar, after whom the Revolution is named, liberated Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador from Spanish rule ending in 1825. He began his crusade for independence in 1810 and did not relinquish it until his death in 1830. Bolívar belonged to the upper echelons of Venezuelan society, but had a mixed heritage of Black and Spanish. He left Latin America, particularly Venezuela, with the dream of full sovereignty and Latin American unification.

Ezequiel Zamora took up Bolívar’s banner years later, and was the leader of the federal forces during the civil war (1840’s-1850’s). Zamora “had a far-reaching programme of land reform for the benefit of the peasants, a passionate hostility to the land-owning oligarchy, a project for combining soldiers and civilians in his struggles, and a desire to fulfill [sic] the Bolivarian dream.” His famous slogan, used to rally his troops was “Tierra y hombres libres (land and free men), Elección popular (general elections), Horrór a la oligarquía (hatred of the oligarchy).”

Lastly, Simón Rodríguez or Samuel Robinson was the teacher and mentor of Simón Bolívar. A native Venezuelan, Robinson traveled the world and not until 1823 did he return to Latin America alongside Bolívar.

These three figures were lost in the annals of Latin American History until Hugo Chávez rescued them. Venezuela has awakened their spirits and is now finishing what they began. Their popularity is not restricted to Venezuela, but is now gaining ground in all of Latin America.

In the 1920’s oil was found in Venezuela creating a mass exodus from the countryside to the cities. This devastated the rural-urban balance and the agricultural industry of the country. During this time, known as the Third Republic, the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez was in power and Venezuela became one the largest exporters of oil in the world. Unfortunately, this did not translate into a better living for most people. The oil industry benefited only a very small percentage of the population at the top. This was to remain the norm until Hugo Chávez reformed the oil industry in 2002.

The Fourth Republic was ushered in by Romulo Betancourt in 1958 ousting dictator Marcos Pérez Jimenez who had come to power through a military coup d’etat in 1948. This day is now celebrated as the 23 de enero celebration. In 1989, in a response to the implementation of IMF and World Bank austerity measures by the government of Carlos Andres Pérez, the Venezuelan people took to the streets in protest in the Caracazo. It was a turning point in Venezuelan history and the culmination of forty years of frustration. Many were killed or disappeared by police and government agents. The exact number is not certain but some believe it is in the thousands.

In 1992 following the wave of the Caracazo, Hugo Chávez and others from the military attempted to oust Andres Pérez. After being pardoned two years later, Chávez came out of prison in triumph. In 1998 he ran for the presidency under the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), a collaboration of many progressive movements and parties of the country incorporating socialist, democrats, independents, etc.

After being elected in 1998, Chávez‘s first action was to draw up a new constitution. There were elections to choose the assembly that would draw up the constitution. Then there was an election to approve the constitution followed by a new presidential election.

In 2002, the opposition attempted a coup d’etat against President Chávez which lasted only a few days. Pedro Carmona, an upper class businessman, took office and immediately dissolved the national assembly, voided the new constitution, reversed the name of the country back to República de Venezuela (Republic of Venezuela) from República Bolivariana de Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), and repealed 49 laws that gave the government greater control over the economy, among other things.

Carmona’s actions lost him support from some military and sectors of the population. It was the military that, after the popular uprising of the masses, brought back Chávez.

Later that year the country witnessed another hit; an oil strike orchestrated by the management of PDVSA, the state-owned oil company. Not only were Venezuelans without fuel, but without food, drink and other basics. Business owners had decided to join the strike and left the population out dry.

A referendum was called for in 2004 and to no one’s surprise, not even the opposition’s, Chávez won by 58%. Despite opposition efforts, Chávez’s support base has grown. The masses know whom they elected; they know who is facilitating a better life for them. They know what they want and Chávez is making it possible.


In The Shadow of The Liberator by Richard Gott

Born and raised in the Central Valley, the author is a recent CSU, Stanislaus graduate in anthropology. She went to Venezuela to be part of and know more about the Bolivarian Revolution, and “to take off the blindfold that this administration and media have put on us about Venezuela.”

Merced-Somoto Sister City delegation planned


The Merced-Somoto Sister City Committee is planning a summer delegation to Merced’s sister city, Somoto, Nicaragua.

Tentative dates are June 9-19, 2006 with an option to stay longer for sightseeing in Granada, Masaya and other places. Cost, including airfare, land transportation, hotels, and meals will be approximately $1100.

The trip will focus on the arts and education, but the visit can be tailored to meet the participants’ individual interests, e.g., health care, environment, etc. The trip offers an opportunity to meet and interact with the warm, hospitable people of Somoto, while continuing to build the bonds of friendship started more than eighteen years ago by members of the Merced-Somoto Sister City Committee.

ACTION: To learn more, attend Information Night, Tuesday, April 4th, 7:00 p.m., in the Fireside Room of the United Methodist Church of Merced, 899 Yosemite Park Way. Call Betty Stewart, 209-722-0401 for more information.

BOOK REVIEW: The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right by Michael Lerner


The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right by Michael Lerner sets forth the vision of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and is about much more than just taking back our country from the “Religious Right.” It is a call to those of us, both within and outside of religious traditions, who constitute the “Spiritual Left” to join not only in achieving political and social change, but in deepening human consciousness as well.

Rabbi Lerner is the leader of the San Francisco synagogue Beyt Tikkun, and editor of TIKKUN magazine: a bimonthly Jewish critique of politics, culture and society. He is also the founder of the Tikkun Community, an international community of people of many faiths calling for social justice and political.

Lerner credits the Religious Right with recognizing that the desire for meaning, connection, and compassion are fundamental. He analyzes how the Right has addressed spiritual yearnings, but with a regressive political and social agenda which is oppressive and exploitive, and which in fact fosters the very materialism and “me-first” ethics from which it would deliver us. His criticism of the Left is that in seeking power to make life better, it has leaned so far backwards trying to be “realistic” that it has ignored its own values, clouded its own vision, and does not speak to the deepest needs of the electorate. As a result, even should the extreme greed, lies, and violence of the present administration prompt some progressive electoral victories, the paradigm of power through fear and domination, which Lerner terms the “Right Hand of God,” would remain unchanged.

Lerner’s proposal is for progressives to bring the “Left Hand of God,” with its emphasis on hope and compassion, into the political arena. For him, the soul of the “Spiritual Left” is to be found in the shared core values of all religious traditions: love, justice, freedom, humility, transcendence of ego, the unity of all Being, thankfulness, and compassion for all life. As an alternative to the right’s pro-rich, pro-war, anti-science, and anti-environmental “Contract with America,” his book offers a “Spiritual Covenant with America” as a working blueprint for spiritually progressive political and social change. This detailed, eight-point document demonstrates how the idealism of the Spiritual Left may be translated into a practical platform with the potential to garner widespread public support. In order both to move the “Spiritual Covenant with America” into the center of the political arena, and to advance the transformation of consciousness that it represents, Lerner has formed the Network of Spiritual Progressives as a dynamic new organizational structure integrating human warmth and personal contact with modern telecommunications and information technology.

I found The Left Hand of God to be enjoyably and clearly written, providing crisp historical analysis. It is prophetic in scope, yet very concrete and workable in scale. It bears the imprint not only of the author’s incisive intellect, but also of his warm and seasoned heart. Few readers will miss its potent antidepressant effect.

For information on the Stanislaus NSP Chapter, call 523-8445 or email. For information about Tikkun, the Tikkun Community, and NSP, visit

What is the World Trade Organization (WTO)?

From the American Friends Service Committee

The World Trade Organization (WTO), established in 1995 as the successor to the 1948 General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), administers trade agreements, provides a forum for trade negotiations, and monitors national trade policies for the 148 member countries. The overall aim of the WTO is to reach a single framework of rules for trade and “trade-related” activities.

Ongoing work at the WTO is done by permanent national trade delegations in Geneva, Switzerland, leading to bi-annual ministerial meetings at which trade ministers attempt to negotiate changes. Decisions are reached by consensus. The current meetings are part of the “Doha Development Round” of negotiations (named after talks launched in Doha, Qatar, in 2001). On the face of it a representative body, in reality the WTO functions in a non-transparent manner, often trumping national governments. Through this global institution, wealthy member countries push for unrestricted global markets, regardless of the human costs for developing countries who are unable to compete with foreign companies that enjoy huge technological and financial advantages.

Under the WTO “free-trade” agreement, “trade” refers not only to how goods are produced in one country and sold in another, it also includes the regulation of intellectual property rights and the deregulation and privatization of services like health insurance and municipal water systems. “Liberalization” of trade, under this broad definition, is a corporate-led process usually customized to the needs of multinational corporations.

What is at Stake

Although there have been some recent victories for developing countries (see below for current status of the WTO negotiations), many threats still remain.

Threat to Development

Enforceable WTO rules are encroaching into areas traditionally considered the realm of domestic policy, causing accelerated loss of countries’ control over their own domestic economic policy and development strategies (see Trade, Democracy & Public Goods:

This loss in self determination results from developing countries having little bargaining power in comparison to wealthy countries in the WTO negotiating system. For example developing countries are often forced to make harmful concessions (e.g. lifting infant industries protections) while receiving market access that offers very few benefits. And because many have already opened their markets to meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank conditions for loans, aid, and debt relief, their bargaining power is weakened further.

Threat to Public Goods

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is an agreement within the WTO that sets the rules for trade and investment in services such as: road building, water delivery, education, health care, telecommunications, and insurance (see Understanding the GATS: Under GATS, governments may be forced to allow foreign competition and control of the deliver of basic public services if they have any kind of private involvement (e.g. a fee is charged for public services or there exist public-private partnerships).

In addition, domestic laws and regulations that overstep the GATS dictate that laws can only regulate “quality of service” could be challenged as unfair trade practices. This means that a GATS ruling could prohibit policies that mandate green purchasing, livable wage, affirmative action, and other measures intended to promote public health, improved labor standards, and human rights

Threat to Worker Rights

Because of lack of consensus on whether enforceable labor standards should be included in the WTO (see Trade and Worker Rights:, the trade ministers concluded that the promotion of labor standards doesn’t belong in a system set up to regulate trade, and instead belongs in the United Nation’s International Labor Organization (ILO). This is in sharp contrast to other “trade related” issues that are incorporated into the WTO such as intellectual property rights — that use patents to create global monopolies — revealing the willingness to protect certain kinds of rights (property and intellectual) over other rights (human and worker).

Threat to Migrant Workers

Some developing country governments are pushing to expand high-skilled service sectors currently covered under GATS, such as doctors and company executives, to include medium and low-skilled workers such as domestic help or construction. Because the current GATS framework allows only for temporary movement of workers across borders to provide services (under its Mode4), it would likely take the form of a global guest worker program rather than a broad improvement in the mobility and rights of workers. Guest worker programs have generally lead to the abuse and exploitation of guest workers while undermining the rights of domestic workers (see Trade and Migration:

The status of trade agreements are constantly changing, please continue to look to visit for updated versions of these agreements and other resources.


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.