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Where the water goes

EDITOR: There is no drought, per se. The water shortage is the result of Wall Street's power elite buying huge tracks of forested land, building Olympic-size swimming pools and ornamental pools and watering their mammoth-size vineyards.

In the 1930s, I grew up on a 380-acre farm on Faught Road southeast of Windsor. No farmer ever watered his vineyard. It was unheard of. For example, Louis Martini, who raised grapes on arid hilltops a thousand feet above the Napa Valley, was the first Californian to place first at Paris's historic wine tasting competition. The point? Less water, better grapes.

The water table on our farm's meadows was at the surface and remained so throughout the driest months. There were posted-off pools throughout the area; a habitat for salamanders that kept the water clean.

In the 1940s, my grandfather sold the farm to an Eastern consortium. They sank huge culverts in the fields draining off hundreds of feet of water in order to raise more grapes. Ironically, they are now watering these grapes.

Madness? Perhaps not madness, but surely ignorance. And, of course, greed.

SHERIDAN PETERSON

Santa Rosa

State's pact with Israel

EDITOR: This agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals Israel for what it truly is: a business venture by some of the world's richest men that uses the Palestinian and Israeli people as cannon fodder to protect their investments.

And, as the story in Thursday's paper dutifully reports ("Netanyahu, Brown sign pro-business pact"), this has been going on for decades. The piece that's left out is that you and I, and the rest of our fellow Americans, are supporting this to the tune of $3 billion of our tax money every year.

There was no mention of the fact that the cybersecurity partnership that this agreement promotes is used to maintain the illegal occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government and aggressive actions all over the world by the American powers that be.

The reporter even refered to the "terrorists in Gaza" as though this were their new name. This is not journalism. It is not even simple reporting of facts. It is propaganda to keep us all in our places so we will accept whatever the rich folks who run this world do to us in their own interest.

As the old Yiddish socialist song says, "Wake up."

LOIS PEARLMAN

Guerneville

Fixing pension problem

EDITOR: I was astounded to read North Bay Labor Council executive director Lisa Maldonado's statement that the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed "are a good match because they both use right-wing ideology to spread lies about working people while supporting the special interests and their 1 percent CEOs and managers" ("San Jose mayor sounds pension alert," Feb. 28). Maldonado's characterization is nonsensical, shortsighted and unfairly divisive.

As a resident, I want my children to have the best available education, to play in well-tended parks and drive on safe roads. When restricted by budgets unable to cover exploding pension liabilities, I'd be angry with whoever negotiated those contracts, whether I'm a laborer, a county administrator or a CEO.

What level of county (and/or city) pension liability is truly sustainable? What's fair and reasonable to support county services — for all taxpayers, including union members?

If promises made before the Great Recession were "unrealistically generous," let's renegotiate those promises to a point that all Sonoma County taxpayers can support — financially and politically.

The alternative does none of us any good, likely ending in county bankruptcy that may well modify pensions anyway. (See Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino.)

And let's do it before it goes to court.

DAVID E. GURLEY

Santa Rosa

Listening to the pope

EDITOR: Friday's story "Catholic program on gays draws criticism" is a serious warning that "gay conversion" is still alive. It is especially sad that in a time when we have a good man as pope who wishes to bring change to an outmoded church that we have a bishop in Sonoma County who still clings to an old bigoted view of gay men and women. I believe Pope Francis could teach Bishop Robert Vasa some humility and kindness, should he wish to listen.

FRANK ZWOLINSKI

Santa Rosa

Why not science?

EDITOR: Knowledge is a pain in the neck. Scientific studies over the past three centuries have generated so much of it that we are overwhelmed by the prospect of understanding it all.

Before the idea of knowing the knowable became a goal of humanity, things were more comfortable. We simply made up explanations for the mysteries which confronted us, and after a somewhat uneasy period of pretending, we accepted them as established wisdom.

In the old days it was too much trouble to figure out how things worked. And now that some of us know such things, it is too much trouble for the rest of us to learn what is known. So we are back to pretending.

Pretending reassures us, but it won't feed and clothe us. There are more of us all the time, and to live well we need better means of producing better food and fiber.

We must not allow ourselves to be frightened by progress.

STEPHEN HAWKES

Healdsburg