Online Edition: July-August 2006     Vol. XVIII, No. 11

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 TUESDAY, July 19, 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 23-25- Peace Camp, weekend in the High Sierra for people of all ages-Register now!

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


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

Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 


Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices--Helene Lee

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections


Reliable Replacement Warhead" Program Could Cost Billions, Diminish U.S. Security, Result in New Nuclear Weapons Designs Less Safe and Reliable Than the Current Arsenal
link to the report (182 KB pdf), The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: A Slippery Slope to New Nuclear Weapons

New nuclear bomb in the works: “In the Cold War arms race, scientists rushed to build thousands of warheads to counter the Soviet Union. Today, those scientists are racing once again, but this time to rebuild an aging nuclear stockpile.“ “Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are locked in an intense competition with rivals at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area to design the nation’s first new nuclear bomb in two decades.“
— The Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2006

The Moral Axis of Darfur


In history there have been moments whose significance for humanity reaches beyond a single place and time. Golgotha. Gettysburg. Auschwitz. Selma. Looking back, we can recognize pivotal moments when the world shifted upon a moral axis, and our common destiny turned either toward good or evil. Darfur is such a moment. The genocide occurring in Darfur is the destruction of hope for an entire people and a denial of the truth that every group of people has the right to existence. Can a tyrant be allowed to obliterate this right in one place without risking its survival somewhere else? If there is hope for humanity in this moment, it arises from an understanding that our survival depends on the survival of this right.

Humanity is turning upon the moral axis of Darfur. Now, toward the destruction of a people and the right of every people to existence. But soon, we hope, toward a different horizon. The moral axis of Darfur runs through a people torn apart by genocide, and through our own humanity as individuals, connecting Darfur to the rest of the world and to our future. The principle that every group of people has the right to existence is more than a legal concept or a philosophical axiom. It is the foundation for society since no society can survive apart from the diversity of culture. Raphael Lemkin, the father of the international law against genocide, wrote:

Cultural considerations speak for international protection of national, religious and cultural groups. Our whole heritage is a product of the contributions of all nations. We can best understand this when we realize how impoverished our culture would be if the peoples doomed by Germany, such as the Jews, had not been permitted to create the Bible, or to give birth to an Einstein, a Spinoza; if the Poles had not had the opportunity to give to the world a Copernicus, a Chopin, a Curie; the Czechs, a Huss, a Dvorak; the Greeks, a Plato and a Socrates; the Russians, a Tolstoy and a Shostakovich.

Can we stop this turning toward destruction? Each day the genocide in Darfur continues means that humanity’s shift upon this moral axis toward evil will become harder to stop. What is being stolen in this moment? A people’s existence? A principle upon which rests the existence of every group of people? If this principle is destroyed, who is safe? If the people of Darfur are lost, where will we find our humanity?

Genocide poses a terrible question: How many days are left for the people of Darfur? Each day carries the risk of a final turn. This turning is felt daily in Darfur. Our future depends on whether the world feels this turning. Once the turning has gone too far, no army on earth will be able to restore our humanity. It will come upon us like a tidal wave or an earthquake, and our ignorance or indifference about Darfur will not save us from the tragic turning toward self-destruction.

One of the greatest secrets is that ordinary people have the power to end the genocide in Darfur. Moral imagination is a revolutionary force. The first step is to turn our gaze toward the suffering and dying people in Darfur. We must face the genocide in Darfur to save ourselves. The government of Sudan is trying to hide its crimes, and the world is trying to decide if it wants these crimes to remain hidden. Once the world pulls back the bloody curtain around Darfur, we will imagine a new future. Our moral imagination will be freed by throwing off the yoke of ignorance and indifference that allows tyrants to destroy an entire people without fear of punishment. We will be free to imagine peace in Darfur. A momentous shift upon the moral axis of Darfur is changing our world. Can you feel it turning? Imagine what would happen if you did.

The author is the founder of Dear Sudan, an ever growing network of communities of faith organized to feed the people of Sudan. Visit to see how you can form your own “Dear Sudan“ effort. He spoke at the recent Peace Camp.

‘An Inconvenient Truth‘


It’s unlikely to make cinematic history alongside Fahrenheit 9/11, The Da Vinci Code or Last Tango in Paris. Its star - remember Al Gore? - sounds out of place with Michael Moore, Tom Hanks and Marlon Brando.

But an early smattering of criticism labels “An Inconvenient Truth” the most important film you’ll see this year. If you get to see it at all.

This warning of environmental disaster is unlikely to play the Brenden, Regal or Galaxy. However, downtown Modesto’s non-profit State Theater will begin showing the film on Friday, June 30 (visit, or call 527-4697).

Fans and critics applauded “the movie Bush doesn’t want you to see,” at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. It opened May 24 in a few key cities.

Bob Burnett of the Berkeley Daily Planet wrote:

“It’s impossible to see this 96-minute film about Gore’s fight to educate America and not wonder how different things would be if he had won in 2000.

“It’s hard to forget how ... millions trusted Bush ... and the forces of Karl Rove managed to label Al ‘an enemy of the people.’ Gore’s story parallels the protagonist in one of Ibsen’s most famous plays, who discovers environmental pollution in the municipal baths in a small Norwegian health resort.

“He thinks that if he tells townspeople the truth, they will take remedial action. Instead, fellow citizens brand him ‘an enemy of the people’.”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, adds:

“If things are even half as bad as Gore says, ‘Truth’ is the most important movie anyone will make this year. Its significance as a wake-up call overshadows all other virtues. It handles complicated material in a clear and entertaining way, renders cinematic what might have seemed like a static lecture, and yes, Gore is funny and engaging in a way you’ve never seen. But beyond that, it brings a feeling of history: Virtually everyone who sees it will be galvanized to do something about global warming — and everyone should see this movie.

“This film version of a multimedia presentation Gore has delivered since 1989 treats audiences as adults in a detailed, lucid and intelligent explanation of a serious issue. It doesn’t preach to the converted but directly and respectfully addresses questions and concerns of skeptics, methodically piling evidence on evidence, until the truth becomes obvious and unmistakable.

“For some, the tipping point will come with charts showing the rapid increase in global temperatures and accompanying increases in greenhouse gases. For others, it will be polar bears struggling to find ice in the Arctic, glaciers reduced to almost nothing in 30-40 years ... the snows of Kilimanjaro reduced to a light dusting.

“Winston Churchill once said ‘Americans will always do the right thing, after they’ve exhausted every alternative.’ (Gore says) we’re down to one alternative, unless you count sticking our heads in the sand and waiting for the sand to turn to water. This movie throws down a challenge. We’ll see if Churchill was right.”

Roger Ebert’s thumbs go up with:

“I want to write this review so every reader will begin it and finish it. I am a liberal, but I do not intend (to) reflect any kind of politics. It reflects truth as I understand it, and represents, I believe, agreement among experts. Global warming is real, caused by human activity. Mankind and its governments must begin immediate action to halt and reverse it. If we do nothing, in about 10 years the planet may reach a ‘tipping point’ and slide toward destruction of our civilization and most of the other species on this planet.

“After that point, it would be too late for any action.

“Forget (Gore) ever ran for office. Consider him a concerned man speaking out. ‘There is no controversy about these facts,’ he says. ‘Of 925 recent articles in peer-review scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement. Zero.’

“He provides statistics: The 10 warmest years in history (since 1992). Last year South America experienced its first hurricane. Japan and the Pacific are setting records for typhoons. Hurricane Katrina passed over Florida, doubled back over the Gulf, picked up strength from unusually warm Gulf waters, and went from Category 3 to Category 5. There are changes in the Gulf Stream and the jet stream. Cores of polar ice show that carbon dioxide is much, much higher than ever before in a quarter million years. It was once thought such things went in cycles. Gore stands in front of a graph showing the ups and downs of carbon dioxide over the centuries. Yes, there is a cyclical pattern. Then, in recent years, the graph turns up and keeps going up, higher and higher, off the chart.

“The primary man-made cause of global warming is the burning of fossil fuels. We are taking energy stored over hundreds of millions of years in the form of coal, gas and oil, and releasing it suddenly. This causes global warming, and since glaciers and snow reflect sunlight but sea water absorbs it, the more the ice melts, the more of the sun’s energy is retained by the sea.”

“What can we do? Switch to and encourage alternative energy: Solar, wind, tidal, and, yes, nuclear. Move quickly to hybrid and electric cars. Pour money into public transit, subsidize fares. Save energy in houses. When I came home after seeing ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ I went around turning off lights.”

Bush himself? White House lights blaze brightly. Bush has been quoted as saying he’d like to diminish dependence on oil, but doubts he’ll see the movie.

The Wall Street Journal, National Review and National Association of Manufacturers disagree with these, the WSR in two swift-boating editorials - one by former Delaware Governor Pete DuPont (!) quoting an industry-funded study.

It reminds this one-time reviewer of a handout from nuclear energy backers arriving on a Monday to aver that no “China Syndrome” could ever happen here. On Wednesday the film opened. On Friday we had Three-Mile Island.

"Stamp Out Sprawl" effort begins



Signature gathering is underway to qualify a local initiative for the November ballot. (Deadline: end of June)

Dubbed "Stamp out Sprawl" or "SOS", the measure calls for citizens to vote whenever agricultural land in Stanislaus county is proposed for conversion to subdivision.

Remember "Measure A" and "Measure M", that require a vote of the people before a planning area can be annexed to the City of Modesto? This time, Denny Jackman's target is all of Stanislaus County.

With the county's plans to develop from Kiernan to the river, with no plans to make the area a city, a huge tract of the best farmland in the world is in danger. The population growth numbers in the Central Valley are staggering, and those supporting this initiative are worried.

ACTION: Petitions are available at McHenry Bowl or from Denny Jackman,, or 247-2503.

MJC professor and peace activist retires

Dan Onorato and wife, Mary Alice. Dan retired in May after 36 years teaching at Modesto Junior College.  Photo: Jim Costello (with Dan’s camera!)

Modesto Junior College Pirate’s Log

“Open your mind and your heart to the reality around you, care about it, and do something.”

With these words spoken in his office last week, Dan Onorato summed up a rich career of teaching, leadership and inspiration. Onorato, English and Spanish professor at Modesto Junior College, will retire at the end of this semester after 36 years of dedicated service; his words and influence will not soon be forgotten by the many members of faculty, friends and students on whom Onorato has had an impact.

“I think he is a saintly man in his generosity and desire to serve others,” said Dr. Jim Beggs, Literature and Language Arts professor.

“He’s got such a positive attitude about what he does as a teacher and as a human being,” said Mike Smedshammer, English Professor at MJC. “He knows what you do with your time on Planet Earth: you give your life to serving other people and make the world a better place.”

Only surpassing Onorato’s reputation as a devoted teacher is his renown in the community for working to improve the lives of people everywhere. He has worked for many years with the Peace Life Center, an organization dedicated to working for social change through nonviolent methods since 1971. The Center has worked on different issues over the years such as draft counseling, alternative energy and reducing consumption patterns. Onorato has been arrested twice; once at the Livermore Lab, where he protested regularly against the development of nuclear weapons, and again at the Nevada test site.

During the Vietnam War, Onorato brought the complexities of the war home to MJC. He insisted that contemporary issues —  even a war — needed to be examined thoroughly, with scholarly depth. He feels the same about the current war in Iraq.

His eldest daughter Satya Onorato recalled, “Our bookshelves are lined with books about the Vietnam War and the media that he read to prepare himself to coordinate an interdisciplinary course about the Vietnam War.”

Onorato traces his high level of social concern to his upbringing in San Francisco, where he was born, and in Marin County.

He saw a surfeit of inequality throughout his youth starting in his own home. He was one of six children, two of whom were mentally handicapped, causing his mother distress. His father owned a meat market in San Francisco that was at the center of the “black ghetto,” exposing him to poverty. His father consciously hired both black and white workers.

“I grew up with the tremendous instinctive sense that life isn’t fair,” Onorato said. “I wanted to try and make it better.” That, according to him, was his driving force.

Onorato grew up in Marin County and went to Catholic high schools, graduating from St. Joseph’s College Seminary with plans of becoming a Catholic priest. He earned his baccalaureate degree in philosophy from St. Patrick’s College Seminary and then traveled to Rome, where he studied theology at Gregorian University. He went on to receive his master’s in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkley, in 1969.

While in the seminary, Onorato was influenced by the Catholic Workers Movement and the writings and social gospel of its founder, Dorothy Day, as well as theologian Thomas Merton and activist priest/poet Daniel Berrigan.

His decision to leave the seminary was based on several factors, one of which was his desire for a family life. Others were that he didn’t completely agree with the authority structure of the church and felt he would be always be a “rebel,” and that his inquisitive nature made him unsure that he would be able to provide answers to other questioning people.

He began teaching at MJC in the fall of 1969. Shortly after, he met Mary Alice, a nursing student from Guyana (her mother is Brazilian). They married in 1972, and had three children, Satya, Talya and Kriya. Mary Alice Onorato now teaches nursing at MJC.

After 34 years of marriage Mary Alice Onorato said, “I love him more than anything in the world. He is just the kindest, most caring person I’ve ever met.”

Over the years, Onorato earned the admiration of many colleagues, as evidenced by the Purdy Award for teaching that he received in 2001.

 “Dan has his priorities in the right places, always balancing his family, community and teaching lives. He is deeply committed to peace, and he lives what he believes,” said Kathy Shaw, retired MJC professor of literature. “He looks at the international picture, is very well-informed politically, and can be counted on for being thoughtful, compassionate and wise in analysis and judgment.”

One special project for which he received great recognition was the 2001 Faces of Stanislaus Project, largely funded by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project invited members of the greater MJC community to submit photos reflecting their families’ origins. Curating the exhibit took over a year and involved many other colleagues from across the disciplines.

 “As a photographic exhibit it was unusual in that all of the work was that of amateur photographers and yet it revealed so much about the people of this community,” said journalism Professor Laura Paull, who was on the committee. The show hung in the Stanislaus County government building downtown for several months.

 “He devoted enormous time and energy to the 2001 Faces of Stanislaus exhibit, which represented the diverse cultural heritage of Stanislaus County through photos of community members and their families,” said Satya Onorato.

The fact that he teaches Spanish as well as English is also the result of his many life experiences.

At the end of his first year of college, Onorato traveled to Mexico with his uncle, who started a group called Amigos Anonymous that helped underprivileged people in small villages. Onorato was so intrigued by this that he returned to Mexico for the next five summers.

 “That gave [me] a dimension of the rest of the world,” he said. “It opened my vistas to the way we live and the way [other] people live.”

Long time friend and colleague Paul Neumann, the former Dean of Literature and Language Arts and a current member of the YCCD Board of Trustees, says “He has a deep care for other people, especially disadvantaged people. He leads by example, not by what he says, but by what he does.”

Onorato’s influences also include people such as Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, both of whom notoriously worked towards social change through non-violence. One characteristic Onorato finds in both King and Gandhi, and all people who work towards social and economic change, is having vision.

“[The] opposite of despair is imagination,” he said. According to Onorato, people who are willing to make change are all capable of imagining a different world. To be able to envision a world without racism and discrimination, a world void of inequality and injustice is a quality that Onorato admires as well as possesses. He understands that while the world isn’t perfect and probably never will be, you have to keep pushing for your cause.

 “You don’t have the expectation that you’re going to solve all the problems right away,” he said. “You do what you think is right in the face of injustice and evil and you keep on.”

With the current war in Iraq, with which Onorato strongly disagrees, as he does with any war, he finds himself feeling as if America is moving in a counterproductive motion. When he finds himself feeling lost, he looks back at history and sees the progress the country has made with slavery ending and women’s rights improving and he finds his faith again.

“I’ve been despairing at times; things don’t change overnight,” he said. “If you truly believe in humanity you can’t take a short-sided view of it; you have to look long range.”

Smedshammer has observed many faculty members retire, and according to him the standard procedure is to slow down and quietly back off, but not for Onorato.

“He still has the same enthusiasm with every student, every meeting, every interaction he’s had. He’s a good example of someone who is doing it right, all the way to the finish line.”

They’re Listening

They’re listening...

Can you hear them listening?

Can you feel them?

Even if they aren’t listening...

Can you feel the possibility...

That they are?

How can you know for sure?

How can you know...

If someone is following...

Your every word?

Your every move?

And analyzing the data...

To put into a bank...

That will categorize...

Who you are...

And how you shall be judged?

And who are they?

Do they know what they do?

Do they believe in it?

Or are they just cogs in a wheel?

Are we all just cogs in a wheel?

Do we know what we do?

What they do?

And where do we turn...

For protection?

For safety?

For truth?

They say it’s for security

They say it must be done...

To protect us from all of them

Who is protecting us from whom?

And where will all this protecting lead?

Who asked us if we wanted to be protected this way?

Who and where and what are they?

And who gave them the right?

Can you hear them?

Can you feel them?

They’re listening...

— Jim Bush


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.