Online Edition: April 2007     Vol. XIX, 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 TUESDAYS, 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, including Sonora, March 18 and Stockton, March 17

Peace Essay Contest Winning Essays

Peace Camp is coming

Register Here

Earth Day in the Park

April 21, 10 am-5 pm, Graceada Park, Modesto

Visit Our Peace Life Center Booth


Connections needs help!

Stanislaus Connections, the peace and justice newspaper of the Modesto Peace Life Center, needs volunteers able to help edit, write, or help put up the paper each month. We meet two times per month. If you are interested in helping with our progressive paper, contact us.

Email Jim Costello, or call 537-7818. Or call Myrtle Osner, 522-4967,


San Joaquin Connections--Our Sister Publication to the North, from the San Joaquin Peace and Justice Network--March issue (pdf)
Community Alliance--Our Sister Publication to the South--2007 issues (pdf)

Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 


Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices--Nancy Haskett

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

New Stanislaus County NAACP president feels she needs to do more to save the kids


“Kids are getting a bad rap,” says Wendy Byrd, newly elected president of the Modesto/Stanislaus Branch of the National Association for Colored People (NAACP). “They are being exploited by everyone, and they don’t have enough advocates to speak up on their behalf.”

“I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I want to be the president of the NAACP’,” explains the already overcommitted Modesto Junior College Director of Student Development and Campus Life. I was asked by more than several people to run.…because many in the community were concerned about the NAACP’s silence and lack of involvement on civil rights issues.”

“I’m not doing this for myself,” she continues. “I’m doing this for the next generation.”

Questioning whether Stanislaus County is ready for change, Byrd observes, “Government officials talk about diversity and equality, because it is the politically correct thing to do, but I don’t see them backing it up.…”

“The NAACP mission statement,” Byrd reiterates, is “to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights for all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.” With that statement in mind Byrd lists as her two-year goals:

Byrd describes herself as a long time “community servant” who has “worked hard at building good relationships throughout the community.” She considers herself a fair minded and objective consensus builder, and feels her role as NAACP president will help her “to foster additional partnerships and bring more resources that will grow the branch.”

Her qualifications for the presidential position are numerous and varied. She has earned a Bachelors of Science and a Master of Behavioral Science from Cameron University and is a graduate of Leadership Modesto.

She has been a member of the local NAACP Executive Committee since 2002, and served as an officer and/or member of the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County, Heritage International Festival, Stanislaus County Equal Rights Commission, Central Valley Black Educators Association, American Association of Women in Community Colleges, Stanislaus Youth Advisory Council, Stanislaus County Mental Health Advisory Board and League of Women Voters.

Byrd has been recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Women of 2006 by the Stanislaus County Commission for Women and has been honored with the Blue Cross Community Service and the King-Kennedy Community Spirit Awards. She has taken on leadership roles as Director of the Area Prevention Research Center, Teen Services Supervisor for the City of Modesto and Manager of the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Learning Center, and has authored the 1990 Modesto Youth Study.

A founder of the Youth Recreation Financial Assistance Program, she also has worked with YES Company, Outdoor Education, Academic Decathlon, Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee, NAACP Women of Courage and Citizens of Distinction Committee, United Way, and the Power of the Purse Luncheon Committee.

A native of Toledo Ohio, she has lived in Modesto since 1989.

Did You Know?…. or, Shift Happens

Introduction by JOHN MUDIE

Hoo boy, I’m scared! “Either we are being led by smart men who are bluffing or crazy men who mean it.” This is from an old cartoon of Brickman of the Washington Star Syndicate. It seems like the story never ends.

The Congress and surely the President understand the contents of this review. If they do not, who would or could tell them? Is some information more important than other information? I precede much of the following with “Did you know…. Hopefully you find it more useful or important than what happened to Natalie in Aruba, Anna Nicole Smith, or the “non-binding” resolutions passed or not passed by the Congress. Then again, thinking is very upsetting — it tells you things you’d rather not know. For reference, all the facts are documented in the web site given at the end of this review. These materials are from the video, Did You Know; Shift Happens - Globalization; Information Age created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod.

— John Mudie

Did you know…. Sometimes size does matter. If you are one in a million in China there are 1300 people like you. In India there are 1100 like you. The 25% of the population of China with the highest IQs is greater than the whole population of North America. In India, it is the top 28%! Translation for teachers: they have more honors kids than we have kids!

Did you know…. China will soon be the number one English speaking country in the world. If you took every single job in the U.S. today and shipped it to China it would still have a labor surplus. In six minutes 60 babies will be born in the U.S.; 244 in China, and 351 in India. Did you know…. The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates that today’s learners will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38 and one out of four workers today is working for a company for whom they have been employed for less than a year. More than half are working for a company they have worked for less than 5 years. According to Richard Riley, former Secretary of Education, the top ten jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.

Name The Country:

Answer: England in 1900

Did you know…. The U.S. is 20th in the world in broadband internet penetration (Luxembourg just passed us). Nintendo invested more than $140 Million in Research and Development in 2002 alone. The U.S. government spent less than half as much in research and innovation in education. One out of eight couples married in the U.S. met online. There are 106 Million users of MySpace as of 2006. If My Space was a country it would be the 11th largest in the world (between Japan and Mexico). The average MySpace page is visited 30 times a day!

Did you know…. We are living in exponential times. There are over 2.7 Billion searches performed on Google each month. To who were these questions addressed B.G. (Before Google). The number of Text Messages sent each day exceeds the population of the planet. There are about 540,000 words in the English language; about 5 times as many as during Shakespeare’s time. More than 3000 books are published daily. It is estimated that a weeks worth of The New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.

It is estimated that 1.5 Exabytes (1.5,000,000,000,000,000,000) of unique new information will be generated worldwide this year. That’s estimated to be greater than in the past 5000 years. The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years. This means that half of what a four-year technical or college degree student will learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study. It is expected that the doubling time for technical information will double every 72 hours by 2010.

Did you know…. The third generation of fiber optics has recently been tested by NEC and Alcatel that pushes 10 Trillion bits per second down one strand of fiber. That’s 1900 CD’s or 150 Million simultaneous phone calls every second. It’s currently tripling about every six months and is expected to do so for the next 20 years. The fiber is already there. They are just improving the end switches which means that the marginal costs of these improvements is $0. Predictions are that e-paper will be cheaper than real paper.

47 million laptops were shipped worldwide last year. The $100 laptops project is expecting to ship between 50 and 100 million laptops per year to children in undeveloped countries. Predictions are that by 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capability of the human brain. By 2023, when first graders will be 23 years old, (in their first careers), it only will take $1000 computers to exceed the capabilities of the human brain. While technical predictions farther out than about 15 years are hard to make, predictions are that by 2049 a $1000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the human race. What does it all mean? Shift Happens!

Watch the original video at

Text at

John Mudie is professor emeritus of physics, Modesto Junior College.

Three Livingston middle school students win award


When fourteen year-old Jose Barajas was shot and killed on November 6, 2006 by a gang-related bullet, students in a Livingston Middle School sixth grade class did more than just mourn. They brainstormed different ways of honoring Jose’s life. They wrote letters to the Livingston City Council and state Senator Jeff Denham. They felt their community can and must contribute to the safety of young people by providing services to keep kids from joining or sympathizing with gangs.

They were so passionate about this project that their teacher nominated Daisy Sanchez, David Rojas, and Abraham Oseguera who were chosen for the California Teachers Association Peace and Justice Youth Activism Award.

The Youth Activism Award honors individuals for their dedicated commitment to civil and human rights, peace, social justice and youth empowerment.

Since the students were unable to attend the awards ceremony at the CTA State Council, Saturday, January 27, 2007 in Los Angeles, the CTA Peace and Justice Caucus sent a representative to honor them at the Livingston Union School District Board Meeting.

The author is a sixth grade teacher at Livingston Middle School, and a member of the NEA/CTA Peace and Justice Caucus, the CTA African-American Caucus, and the CTA Education Not Incarceration Caucus. She lives in Turlock.

Conservatives have declared war on the middle class


If you observe countries throughout the world, you find that in most of them there is a small wealthy elite and a small middle class, while the vast majority of people are poor. Prior to World War II, this was what the United States looked like as well.

When you see a society with a large middle class, it is an artificial phenomenon created by government policy. The American middle class as we know it was created largely by government action. The free market, left to its own devices, tends to concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

The government created the middle class through a series of policy decisions starting primarily with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s and culminating with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s.

Starting in the 1930s, and on through the 1960s, the government was busy building and enlarging the American middle class. The rich were required to pay their dues to society—the society that had allowed them to become wealthy—because of the new progressive income tax. The proceeds from this tax were spent on government programs that spread prosperity to the rest of society and grew a middle class in America. One example was Social Security. Prior to Social Security, there was no such thing as retirement. You worked until you got too old to work. Then, if you were lucky, your kids took care of you. What if you had no kids? You starved. In the days before Social Security, old age often was synonymous with poverty. The government Social Security Program allowed elderly Americans to live out their last years with dignity.

College student aid is another example. Prior to the 1950s, it was mostly the children of rich people who went to college. After World War II, Congress passed the GI Bill, which paid for veterans to go to college. In the 1960s, the federal government committed itself to making college affordable to everyone by offering grants and loans to non-veterans as well.

State governments also built hundreds of community colleges and university campuses. Unlike expensive private colleges, the state colleges were subsidized by taxpayers. In California in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, college was free and financial aid was mostly available to help students pay for incidental expenses like books and room and board. A college education enabled graduates to get high-paying white collar jobs. Rather than working in factories like their parents, they were able to join the middle class.

The government hired many of these college graduates to do a variety of jobs, helping to build a better and more prosperous society. Scientists developed new technologies in medicine, transportation and communications. Most of the new technologies we take for granted today—from cell phones to iPods—were funded by government grants. Government scientists and technicians were hired to clean up polluted air and water. Teachers and college professors—paid with public money—educated the next generation. Doctors and nurses were hired to work in public health facilities to care for the sick in communities throughout the country. Social workers and counselors were hired to help families in distress.

The government declared a “war on poverty.” Hundreds of thousands of U.S. children were malnourished because their parents were too poor to provide enough food. The federal government provided food stamps and cash for food and clothing and other things these kids needed.

The middle class as we know it today was created by the government through its investments in people in the 1950s and 1960s. The government taxed the rich and invested the proceeds in human capital—in raising the standard of living of everyone else. As a result, the income inequality in the US fell continually until the early 1970s.

Then government policy began to change. The origins of this change date to the mid-1960s. President Johnson spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a disastrous war in Vietnam, increasing the national debt. Presidents Nixon and Ford tried to balance the budget during their eight years in office by cutting spending on these investments in human capital.

When Jimmy Carter assumed the presidency in 1977, the Vietnam War was finally over and he began to increase the government subsidies and income redistribution that had built the American middle class. But he was only in office for four years.

President Ronald Reagan convinced Congress to cut the taxes of the rich and of corporations. The bottom personal income tax rate was raised from 14% to 15%, while the top personal income tax rate was cut from 70% to 31%. Corporate taxes fell from 15% of government revenue to only 9.3%. This created a huge budget deficit, which Reagan tried to reduce by cutting investments in human capital. His budgets cut spending on education, health care, social services, environmental protection, scientific research, etc.

What happened? The incomes of the rich skyrocketed and incomes of just about everyone else stagnated or fell. Most mothers had no choice but to go to work because, for the first time since the 1940s, middle class families could no longer survive on one income. Public hospitals and health clinics throughout the US closed because of cuts in government funding and millions of people found that they no longer had access to affordable health care. For the first time since the Great Depression, millions of people became homeless.

Cuts in financial aid made college unaffordable for millions of young people. Millions more had to take out massive loans in order to be able to afford to go to college. The middle class, which had been growing steadily since the 1950s, stopped growing and poverty rebounded.

The first President Bush and President Clinton inherited from President Reagan a massive national debt and a huge budget deficit. They gradually brought the budget back into balance by more cuts to spending on human capital and a small tax increase on the rich. By the time President Clinton left office, the budget was balanced and the country was paying off the huge debts President Reagan had created. The United States was finally able to afford more investment in human capital and to begin enlarging the middle class again.

Then the current President Bush took office. He convinced Congress to cut the taxes of the rich. Now, many middle class families pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than rich families do. The national debt has soared, erasing in just one year all the hard work President Bush’s father and President Clinton had done to balance the budget. Then he ordered the armed forces to invade Iraq, and the country went even further into debt.

The results? National economic policies since the 1980s have benefited the rich and harmed most everyone else. The country has continued to grow richer, but most of the gains have gone to the rich. The middle class has stopped growing and most middle class families are going further and further into debt. The national savings rate is now negative for the first time since the Great Depression. People are going into debt faster than they can save money.

President Bush and the Republican Congress cut spending on grants to college students and increased the interest rate on student loans, making college even harder to afford.

The US dollar‘s value continues to fall, and the current account deficit to rise. In other words, our country is spending a lot more money than it’s earning, and we’re borrowing the difference from foreign counties like China. We are in danger of an economic collapse similar to Argentina’s a few years ago. If that happens, the middle class won’t just be struggling. It will be destroyed.

We need to balance the budget by making the tax system more progressive and restore investment in human capital before we return to the conditions of the 1930s—when a few very wealthy families controlled most of the country’s wealth and the vast majority of Americans were very poor.

Lee Ryan Miller, is co-founder of the Central Valley Democratic Club. He teaches political science at California State University, Stanislaus. You may visit his website at

GOLDEN GULAG: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California.

by Ruth Wilson Gilmore (University of California Press)

Reviewed by MYRTLE OSNER

Hearing this passionate woman, sponsored by the Great Valley Center, talk of her research was an eye opener. Although I have been concerned for some time about the immense growth of prisons in California, I had no idea of the real size of the problem.

First: California is the fifth largest economy in the world. The state has embarked on the biggest building project in the history of the world: namely, BUILDING PRISONS. All other infrastructure needs in the state have consequently suffered (roads, schools, parks, all community needs, when all the money goes to building prisons.)

Her lecture, a summary of her book, detailed why prisons have grown so rapidly beginning in the 1980s, how decisions are made regarding prison placement, and how the prison explosion all started.

Her thesis: the Adult prison system in California is in crisis. The system is in federal receivership for prisoner health care reasons. The government’s ability to organize facets of the system is chaotic.

This massive study gives an historical perspective of how California lost jobs while becoming a globalizing economy. (e.g., 75,000 jobs disappeared with the demise of the auto industry in California). Decisions made in the early eighties were deliberate: The focus was on one single thing: “protecting you from crime.” The legislature’s solution: Build more prisons. Yet, California’s crime rate has been falling since 1980.

California is planning to build 23 more prisons in 23 years. Subsequently, California passed many laws that guaranteed that prisons would be full.

Digressing from her central theme, Ms. Gilmore analyzed the effect prisons have on small towns. Prisons were “sold” to the cities/counties promising that locating a prison there would improve these entities’ economies. Gilmore shoots this down in every instance. Her statement: Prisons are cities in themselves. They do not add to a town, but rather people coming there to work or visit do not integrate into the community already there, and they also strain the infrastructure as well as increase air pollution, etc. Families of prisoners don’t move to prison towns due to a CDC policy of moving them regularly. She also reminded us that the system does NO REHABILITATION, only incarceration.

Suggesting ways to make communities less vulnerable to crime, she touts community organizing where neighbors get together, where families see that it is an unfair system in which more people are in prison for far longer. In addition, released prisoners need to be re-integrated into their communities. There are cultural ways to deal with this.

A state commission, headed by former Gov. Deukmejian, recently found that, “What’s happening in California prisons makes no sense.” This is the ultimate point of the book.


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.