"The Rise of the New Land Lords," Feature, 2/12
Welcome to Feudalism
The real problem with people like Thomas Barrack Jr. and those of his kind is that they look human like us but really aren't. It's an old story: The rich get so rich that the poor get pissed off and kill them, and then it starts again. Century after century, the same game is played. It's why Moses left Egypt, why Jesus was murdered, and why our government is so paranoid it wants to listen to every word we utter because we might be plotting something against it.
To tycoons like Carl Icahn, and the Koch brothers, we are ants in their way. We have no feelings, no families, no homes, no dreams. We are pawns to be manipulated for their profit, the profit they have sold their souls and humanity for. Welcome to the age of feudalism/capitalism.
Steve Deutsch, Berkeley
National Housing Plantation
Once again, the Express reports what other news outlets can't or won't. "The Rise of the New Land Lords" exposes exactly who is exploiting the East Bay housing market. The wealthy are turning America into a national housing plantation. Twenty-four-hour news radio KCBS won't report fully on this, but they'll air ads for "house flipping" aka "house pimping." And your report identifies in much more detail who is responsible for all of the economic and social destruction and the weaponizing of what once was considered a basic necessity.
Carl Martineau, Berkeley
"State to End Program for Sickest Kids," News, 2/12
My son can walk, talk, and use his hands because of the great care provided by California Children's Services (CCS). He received great care and follow-through both from CCS and the Center for the Vulnerable Child at Children's Hospital Oakland.
Peter Leahy, Portland, Oregon
"California's Thirsty Almonds," Feature, 2/5
Desert Farming Cash Cow
Brilliant cover story. Mr. Palomino does a splendid job chronicling the history and evolution of this crazy desert farming cash cow we've stuck ourselves with in the western San Joaquin Valley. Seems to me that we need to start thinking about not just whether our foods are "local" or "organic," but whether the growing practices make sense on a basic level, and then vote with our dollars in the same way Michael Pollan asked us all to vote with our dollars about industrial food so many years ago. If we let the growers know that we're not going to support this kind of environmentally unsound agriculture, then the demand for piped-in water should decline rapidly. I know that I'm going to start thinking twice about springing for almond milk or almond butter, and I'll research where my water-intensive crops are being grown from here on out. I'd urge everyone to do the same.
Julian Suhr, Berkeley
Walking in a Farmer's Boots
Imagine riding in a bicycle race through the streets of San Francisco, and after completing half the course, you are told that the rules have changed and every third rider must abandon pedaling and instead carry his bicycle the rest of the way. You would not be very pleased if you were that third rider.
Well, that is what happened to farmers like me along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley after we planted almond trees years ago but were later told that part of that water needed by the trees was going to be taken away. Combine years of surviving under these new rules with a devastating drought that is now gripping our state and the result is farmers must make difficult decisions this year whether to keep their trees alive.
It is unfortunate that your readers were not provided with this important information that was passed along to the author of "California's Thirsty Almonds" during his visit to my farm.
Farming has never been an easy endeavor for those who commit their lives to working the soil. Adding frustration to our efforts to provide a safe and affordable food supply is the lack of understanding people exhibit in criticizing our efforts. They are entitled to their opinions but those opinions should not be treated as facts. It was disappointing to read some of these opinions go unchallenged in the article.
The San Joaquin Valley is recognized as the most productive region for food and fiber crops across the globe. This production is the result of a region with a good climate and growing conditions. Yet some people continually label our lands as toxic and loaded with damaging minerals in the soil. But these criticisms do not correlate with the successful story of the food grown on our farms that feed families across California and elsewhere.
Our valley is one of five Mediterranean-like growing regions in the world and the only one of its kind in the United States. If critics of how we use water on the farm were successful in doing away with farming in the San Joaquin Valley, that means the food we produce would be grown in one of those other four regions outside of the United States. I doubt if the American consumer would embrace that idea.
Some of the crops that we grow, such as tomatoes, flourish in the San Joaquin Valley. The soil and dry climate is ideal for tomatoes and other crops. The water we bring from other areas of the state is vital to this production. If tomatoes were planted in a region that has an exceeding abundance of rainfall, they would never mature and instead would rot on the vine as a result of too much water.