Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Leftists, Empire, and Military Intervention

There are some on the left calling for U.S. military action – not bombs necessarily, but at least weapons – in support of the Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State radicals in Syria.  There is a moral calculus involved, so I don't want to doubt their leftist credentials, but I, nonetheless, don't agree with them.  We generally should not be supporting American empire in this realm – the realm of foreign policy, military power, and the military-industrial complex.  Our top priority, by far, ought to be to oppose and hinder U.S. military adventures.  Sure, there are competing objectives, and they should be weighed against each other, hence the moral calculus.  But considering the power of the American military and the corporations that benefit from its dominance, as well as the decades of carnage committed by the U.S., I fall on the side of opposing American military intervention here.

I don't approach this from a pacifist point of view, and I don't believe that there could never be a reason for us on the left to push the United States to take some action related to foreign policy or even military action.  I just think that anyone who understands the nature of American empire right now, and particularly in this region, should consider calling for U.S. intervention, even limited intervention, a bad idea 99.9% of the time.

ISIS is worthy of condemnation.  That requires little explanation.

The Kurds defending Kobani seem worthy of support from the left.  That is certainly true, and appears to be motivating some of the people calling for American military action.  We are told that we should be listening to the Kurds, since they are the ones on the ground who best know what they need.  That is also, of course, very true.  But that ought not be the end of the analysis when the solution presented is to empower American imperialism.  And empowering American imperialism is exactly what pushing for weapons or limited strikes would be doing.  The left would be trying to push a multi-trillion dollar military-industrial complex – one that would be happy to supply arms to just about anyone as long as long-term profits are not threatened – to do just what we want and no more.  We would be trying to lobby slimy politicians like Dianne Feinstein, who delights at putting a humanitarian facade on imperial adventures and would undoubtedly co-opt any successes the pro-intervention left has at influencing the debate.

But the pro folks have argued that historical examples demonstrate that success is possible or that opposing intervention would repeat the failures of the past.

David Graeber analogized helping the Kurdish fighters with defending the Spanish Republic in 1937.
If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world – and this time most scandalously of all, the international left – really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?
But the important question for me would be, "what would have been the parallel to the United States of today back in 1937?" There was none. If the call is for leftists to go and fight against ISIS alongside the Kurds and independent of the American nation-state, as many did with Spain nearly 80 years ago, then he has a powerful argument.  I would not be opposed to such a movement.

Kamran Matin used other analogies to bolster his argument:
Moreover, a cursory review of historical evidence shows that taking tactical advantage of specific geopolitical circumstances has been a common feature of most progressive movements. Much of the ‘third world’ national liberation and anti-colonial movements of the last century exploited Cold War rivalries between the USSR and the US. To this very day the Palestine liberation movement has received support from regional anti-democratic states such Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. In Europe itself the Irish Republican movement received support from dictatorial regimes at loggerheads with the west, e.g. Libya under Muammar Gaddafi.
And perhaps this could work even today in that 0.01% of instances.  But, there are no longer two global superpowers to play against each other.  The U.S. stands alone as the sole global superpower and world's policeman.

Perhaps we could push this machine towards a crude intervention, and maybe that would be the thing to do in certain circumstances – facing down an out of control train where anything we can throw at it to slow it down or stop it would be better than letting it roll over all of us. But the leftists calling for this campaign want a circumscribed and limited intervention – and one that might even, somehow, undermine American empire before it realizes its mistake! Here, again, is Matin:
So the left should not, in fact cannot afford to, a priori rule out western military assistance for the defenders of Kobani. Rather, it ought to focus on the explicit terms and circumstances of such assistance, and the wider political project and movement that Kobani represents, and carefully examine the likely implications of the provision of such a limited assistance for a democratic left project in the region that would in effect undermine the objectives of the providers of the assistance.
No a priori rule here, just a reasoned weighing of the costs and benefits. But I'm not sure all of these analyses are based on a reasoned weighing of costs and benefits.  James Bloodworth argues in The Independent that protesters opposing U.S. bombing might as well hold a rally for a massacre of civilians:
Meanwhile the Stop the War Coalition decided that, rather than join one of the many Kurdish anti-Isis demonstrations in London, it was more appropriate to protest against US airstrikes on Isis positions.
Considering it is those same airstrikes - in support of Kurdish fighters – that are helping to holding back Isis forces in Kobane, this is as good as to say that a massacre of Kurdish civilians is preferable to any US involvement in the conflict. Or to pursue this as a metaphor, it is a bit like protesting against the solving of a murder because you do not like the police.
Except this isn't just about not liking the U.S., it is about recognizing that the vast majority of massacres in the region have been committed by the U.S. military, and supporting these strikes simply empowers and emboldens that military machine. Certainly a massacre of Kurdish civilians would be horrible, but U.S. airstrikes are not the only way to avoid that outcome, nor do they guarantee avoiding that outcome.  I would support actions to push Turkey from preventing fighters and/or weapons from joining the side of the Kurds.  I would support a call to allow donations to various organizations fighting against ISIS that the U.S. has labeled "terrorist."

Whatever outcome a successful campaign to push American empire to take limited action in support of Kurdish fighters might have in relation to preventing loss of life and pushing ISIS back from some of its conquests, they would be dwarfed by the boost to American empire.  And stunting American empire ought to be a priority for the left, especially considering its impact in the region over the last 25 years: wars, targeted killings, sanctions and other actions killing (conservatively) millions of innocent people; the propping up of vicious dictatorial regimes; the massive exploitation of resources; and, the growing number of permanent U.S. military and corporate installations that no other nation maintains in the region.  For these reasons I believe calling on the US to do anything militarily to support the Kurdish fighters against ISIS ultimately does more harm than good.  There are other actions we can take though, and I'm all for doing something.  I'm not interested, however, in supporting the military-industrial complex or American empire, except in the most dire and rare of circumstances.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Two "Progressive" Legal Organizations and Their Two Very Different National Conferences

After the latest Law for the People Convention (the name for the National Lawyers Guild's annual, national conference), I'm feeling pretty glad that the Guild is not the American Constitution Society. Don't get me wrong, I like those kids and there are a few joint members in both organizations, but there are some key differences between the two organizations.

Let's look at the two groups' 2014 conventions.

ACS says this on their website: "The ACS National Convention is the premier legal event of the year, attracting more than 1,000 of the nation’s leading progressive judges, lawyers and policymakers." Leaving aside the fact that "premier legal event of the year" is just their opinion, I have to admit, they do get some big names. This year they had Sonia Sotomayor, who, as Supreme Court Justices go, is a pretty cool jurist, and obviously a pretty important person.

The NLG's conference sometimes gets a lefty Congressperson to attend, like John Conyers, but usually, big name politicians and federal judges keep as much distance as possible. ACS had Conyers as part of its "honorary host committee," but it also had Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy, and Nancy Pelosi on board. Despite our lack of big-name Democratic politicians, we still had over 700 people attend our conference. Not too shabby considering a big part of our plenary was a debate about whether to call ourselves an "anti-capitalist organization." The opponents won the day, but most, nonetheless, felt the need to declare that they, personally, were anti-capitalist.

In contrast, ACS honored Roderick A. Palmore, executive vice president, general counsel and chief compliance and risk management officer, and secretary of General Mills. How he fits all that on his business cards, I'm not sure, but he has been a strong proponent of diversity in the legal profession, so it isn't as if his award was completely out of place. But the NLG would never honor him. We wouldn't. If his General Mills credentials didn't disqualify him, the fact that he is also a director of the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company would certainly seal the deal.

The NLG conference was a pretty unique event – a legal bar association gathering of lawyers, legal workers, law students, and activists. We listened to a keynote address from Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union leader and Rahm Emanuel adversary, who spoke passionately about supporting public schools and defending the rights of teachers in the workplace. We honored an immigration advocate who told a story about representing a mother and daughter who were tortured for hours at an immigration facility in an attempt to get them to admit that they were undocumented.

We did actually have one Supreme Court Justice now that I think of it – Fernando Vegas Torrealba spoke at a few sessions and was there for the full conference hanging out with Guild members he considers friends. He is the President of the Electoral Chamber of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, and has defended the reforms of the Maduro government, and the Chavez government before it. There was quite an international presence actually: activists and legal activists from Palestine, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Mexico, Iraq, Japan and elsewhere – most of whom discussed their work opposing U.S. foreign policy or fighting back against policies of their own governments, but policies directly, or indirectly, supported by the U.S.

The ACS conference didn't have any obvious international issues on its agenda. They did seem to have a lot of good panels that would have fit in at a Guild convention, at least by looking at the titles: The Privatization of America, Protecting Women's Reproductive Health Care in a Hostile Era, Seeking an End to Racial Profiling, etc. Still, much of their conference seemed to be focused on listening to politicians speak and organizing to get good judges on the bench. Not horrible stuff, but just not the kind of thing the NLG would spend a lot of its precious time on.

The NLG conference also included a lot of critical discussions on the criminal justice system, including Stopping the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Stopping Mass Incarceration, and a session on Political Prisoners and the Prison Industrial Complex. There were presentations and discussions on Indigenous Resistance to Resource Extraction, Sex Work and the Failure of Anti-Trafficking Policies, Pursuing Accountability for U.S. Torture, and Protecting Dissent. A bunch of topics that would scare away most General Mills' executives and mainstream politicians.

But the NLG's goal is, and has always been, to demystify the law and to bring it back to the people. So, a lot of our conference emphasized the connection between legal work and community activism. A lot of the speakers were non-legal activists – a Ferguson resident who was starting to film the cops, a counselor with the AFSC's Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, an American Indian educator, a Chicago Public School social worker, an organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, an activist whose work focuses on "dismantling the prison industrial complex," and a "Black trans activist and sex worker rights advocate." We also had a bunch of rad lawyers talking.

It was pretty inspiring, relevant and very much cutting edge (for a legal conference). I can't say the same thing for the ACS conference, but they have a different mission than we do. We both use the word "progressive" to describe ourselves, but our politics are obviously more left than theirs, and our relationship to power is more outside than theirs. We also see our role, as people with specialized legal knowledge, differently. By and large, the Guild sees itself as using the law as a tool for positive social change when possible, but recognizing that the law is also, in many cases, a hindrance to positive social change. We also see our role as empowering the communities directly affected by oppression, so when possible, putting legal tools into their hands rather than just treating them as clients.

This different philosophy is reflected in the NLG conference and becomes clearer when comparing it to the ACS event. I was energized at this year's Law for the People Convention in Chicago and am looking forward to next year's conference in Oakland, California. Particularly considering the high cost of air travel these days, I don't think I'll be attending an ACS conference anytime soon.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

ISIL is Scary, but the U.S. is Way Scarier

How does one adequately comprehend and confront the chilling and horrific killings of human beings like the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff?  It is the stuff of nightmares and horror movies.  It hits right at our deepest, darkest fears about death. It is difficult for us to fathom what was going on in their heads as they faced their last moments or what would be going on in ours.

As troubling as their killings were, we should not use these tragedies to create more, and we should remember that gruesome killings are not the exclusive realm of a particular people or a particular religion.  In fact, the U.S. and our allies are directly responsible for millions of James Foleys (in the sense that millions of victims of our foreign policies were innocent and had loved ones, hopes for the future, etc.); and we (the U.S.) are indirectly responsible for Foley's killing as well.

But millions of corpses can pile up and their deaths don't necessarily resonate as much (with many Americans anyway).  There are a number of reasons why these killings may resonate more: They were unusual (beheadings), but also publicly posted in vivid detail on the kind of social media we're used to seeing celebrities or friends on – twitter and youtube (for Foley anyway, until they were removed).  The men were also Americans, so for most Americans, they was familiar – "dudes" we could have gone to school with or who might have worked for the local newspaper a few years back.  That all makes sense, but it isn't an excuse to care more about their deaths than others, or worse, to use their deaths to call for policies that would result in the killing of many, many more innocent people.

A beheading seems like one of the worst ways to die at the hand of another human being – and these were uniquely gruesome – done by a person covered in black fabric with a knife in hand as opposed to a guillotine or some other contraption that provides some separation between killer and victim.  (Our ally, Saudi Arabia, beheads people as well, but their victims aren't white Americans, so let's not bring that up.)  I didn't watch the video, and I won't, but I've seen some of the still images; images which are pretty chilling.  The man in black could easily be the next horror movie villain.

The killings, vividly captured on video, were also distributed online. Foley's killing was posted to YouTube with crisp images and someone with an English accent (as I understand) speaking in the video.  The perpetrator even had a twitter account which he used to post the video.  These weren't grainy videos smuggled out of the mountains of Pakistan.

So they were creepy and palpable, but they have not made me support intervention in Iraq by the U.S. anymore than I did before – I'm opposed, particularly to military intervention.  They also do not incline me to believe that the man in the video or the movement of which he is a part represents all Muslims, or that something about Islam makes these kinds of acts more likely among its followers than say Christianity does.  If anything, this all makes me want to fight back against these tendencies even more – to oppose U.S. military action in the Middle East and to oppose Islamaphobia – because I know the same acts motivate others to do the opposite – to take advantage of these acts to do the opposite.

As the richest, most powerful nation on earth, there is probably a lot we could theoretically do to counter ISIS in a way that preserved life, promoted justice and secured religious freedom.  But that ideal simply does not reflect the history of American foreign policy, particularly over the last few decades in this part of the world, and it isn't what our enormous military apparatus is set up to do or what military industries find profitable.

Just consider what we've done in Iraq over the past 25 years.  The first war in Iraq killed a few thousand civilians and injured thousands of others, but it was just the beginning of a drawn out military and economic campaign against Iraq by the U.S.  After Bush senior left office, Democratic President Bill Clinton gladly took the reins, maintaining no-fly zones and devastating sanctions.  When asked about the estimated half a million children killed by sanctions in Iraq, Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, famously replied, "we think the price is worth it."  When George W. Bush came to power, it was much easier, even if controversial, to justify attacking Iraq in part because of the prior decade of ongoing aggression against that country by the U.S.  During Bush's war, even conservative estimates are that hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of others injured or who died from the effects of war.  All of that bloody history is pretty f***ing scary.  Why would we think that having the Pentagon intervene in the current situation would lead to humanitarian results?

Considering the state that we've left that country in – the millions of dead, their families and friends with their memories; the millions of injured, their families and friends who must care for them; the destroyed infrastructure; the political vacuum that we've tried to fill with this or that leader favorable to the U.S. – it is hardly surprising that a group like the ISIL (or ISIS) would take advantage of the situation.  One wonders what would happen in this country under similar circumstances.  Would racist militias become more organized and violent? Would Christian Fundamentalists begin to train fighters?  There are plenty of backward elements in this country that could easily take advantage of such a situation.

For those who would use this act to continue to demonize Islam, one wonders why a beheading by someone who calls himself Muslim tells us more about Islam than the murdering of hundreds of thousands by someone who calls himself Christian tells us about Christianity, or the murdering and maiming of thousands by someone who calls himself Jewish tells us about Judaism. Despite the terror inflicted on the rest of the world by people who identify as "Christian," I still love my Christian brothers and sisters.
 
Those who cynically use a frightening and sad killing to push for wars of aggression by the U.S. or our allies are ignoring or downplaying the gruesome results of American war-making and foreign policy in the Middle East: the millions of innocent people killed had hopes and loved ones and plans for the future, just like James Foley and Steven Sotloff.  If only their killings (those millions killed by U.S. foreign policy) resonated with more Americans in the same way, the urgency to "do something" might translate into a foreign policy that actually did something good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Open the Borders

President Obama - a Democrat who the throngs of right-wing bigots defending freeloading ranchers in Nevada consider a socialist - has deported more human beings than any other previous president.  Yet those same right-wing bigots, and the masses of mildly more moderate conservatives and Republicans, still believe (or want their constituents or television viewers to believe) that Obama coddles undocumented immigrants and would like to grant amnesty to millions.  So, it doesn't appease the right and it is unpopular with a big part of the Democratic base, yet Obama continues to implement harsh immigration policies – policies that have a brutal impact on hundreds of thousands of people every year.  Sadly, it is very possible that Republican leadership would try to outdo this administration, because why let a Democrat beat them on this issue.  It is mind boggling.  We ought to be moving in the opposite direction.

In recent months, thousands more kids have been showing up at our southern border than in previous years, many fleeing Central America.  Obama has announced more detention facilities as a response, even though there are (at least) 250 facilities holding immigrants and the U.S. government detains hundreds of thousands of them in those facilities each year.  In the meantime, children are being held in crowded, unsanitary conditions in Texas, while in other parts of the country they are putting them in makeshift facilities at military bases.  Overwhelmed in Texas, where most of these kids are showing up, they are flying hundreds of mostly "families with young children" to other parts of the country "for processing."

The administration will also speed up legal processes so that these children can be sent away more quickly; this in a system already defined by coercive practices and a lack of due process. 

Not everyone is "lucky" enough to get caught up in this horrible system.  Many perish as they attempt to bypass the Border Patrol, walking miles in extreme heat or cold with little available food or water; or traveling in a cargo container or in a rail car, dealing again with extreme temperatures, but also with a lack of oxygen.  We're now learning how many of these people, when their bodies are found, are dealt with in the United States:  Their bodies may end up in trash bags buried in a mass grave.

We're the richest, most powerful nation on the planet (and in the history of humankind).  This is the 21st century.  And for some reason we are building walls, installing fences, using drones, and further militarizing our borders, with calls for even more.  We are locking up thousands of people for the crime of not being born here.  We are flying people out of this country to destinations all around the world, forcing them to live somewhere else, even when those people have lived here for most of their lives, and even when those people have children, or parents, or partners here.  And refugees are dying along our Southern border because of these backward policies.

The media often describes all of this as our immigration system being "overwhelmed," which suggests that there is either no solution or that the solution lies in bolstering or modifying the current practices – more walls, more fences, more enforcement, less due process, more border patrol officers, etc.  But there is a solution worth trying.  One that is morally just and may not lead to the dire consequences imagined by the fear mongering anti-immigrant crowd.  We can move towards more open borders.  Why be overwhelmed?  It's liberating to think it and, not coincidentally, it happens to be a move towards liberation for the millions of people who need to, or choose to, travel across borders.

There may be practical reasons why we shouldn't or can't simply open the borders over night (though I'd be willing to try it), but regardless, fewer restrictions on travel should be our goal, not more restrictions.  Otherwise we are just moving more and more towards an unstable and cruel situation: a globalized world, where communication and capital can easily fly across borders, but where human beings are divided by higher walls and more authorities with weapons.  We should be calling for more open borders and rejecting Washington's games of illusory paths towards citizenship, more border security, and more deportations.  The alternative is unacceptable.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

New Yosemite Adventures

Looking down Yosemite Falls.
The floor of Yosemite Valley is about 4000 feet above sea level.  At the top of Yosemite Falls, the elevation is about 6500 feet above sea level.  It's a tough trail to the top, and a knee-jarring slippery descent, but JC and I made the round trip hike in about 5 hours.  Solid hiking shoes and a walking stick helped; but the desire of accomplishment and the views' effect on the adrenal gland pulled us through.

So, there were actually plenty of people on the trail – not nearly as crowded as the Valley floor or the Mist Trail – but enough people to make the accomplishment seem less than extraordinary.  A man of about 28 with an infant strapped to him was slower than us, but mostly because he stopped frequently to calm down his child.  A teen girl with her younger brother marched past us down the trail wearing everyday sneakers.  The boy slipped and the girl casually grabbed the hood of his sweatshirt and pulled him up; neither paused their forward progress.  Still, it is not an easy trail (marked "strenuous" by the 2 sources on trails we had available), and several people we saw near the bottom abandoned the hike early on; others only went halfway up to see the stunning views of the Falls from a midpoint without continuing the trudgery of the remaining switchbacks to the very top.

A rainbow in the mist of Yosemite Falls.
Somehow this trail was built: there were stone steps in areas, evidence of blasted rock in others; and at the very top, clinging to the side of the cliff, overhanging the rush of frigid water and facing the sometimes fierce winds racing through Yosemite Valley, there is an observation area with a metal railing that appears to be little more than half inch pipe.  It seemed solid, but I was not about to test it.

Climbing up to the top of Yosemite Falls was largely how we spent our 3rd day in the Park, besides stopping at the base of El Capitan for a beer and some soup for dinner.  The prior day we traveled down the Wawona Road to Mosquito Creek and an unmarked trailhead.  The goal was to find Alder Creek Falls – a waterfall not nearly as spectacular as those entering Yosemite Valley, but one that would easily be a feature in the region had glaciers not carved out Yosemite Valley over the last 3 million years.  The highlights of this hike were seclusion and history.  We encountered not a soul on our hike, unless you believe deer, birds, lizards and the like have souls.  Plus, the last 3rd of the walk to the falls is along an abandoned, and largely disassembled, logging railroad.  Various relics litter the area.

El Capitan was also our destination that early evening with a stroll to the base, looking up at rock climbers.

Looking up at El Capitan.
The day before that, we arrived at our cabin in the National Forest just outside Yosemite, which was beautiful despite being surrounded by the remains of a large, devastating fire that burned the previous year.  Half the day gone to car travel, and being in the vicinity of San Francisco's water supply – Hetch Hetchy – we decided on a short hike downstream of the O'Shaughnessy Dam.  The Poopenaut Valley Trail is short but very vertical.  Walking down the trail often involves sliding down the trail; and the further you go, the more the hike back up becomes a concern.  But on the valley floor along the Tuolomne River, you can relax for a moment in a peaceful meadow that few visitors to the National Park ever enter.  Like the trail to Alder Creek Falls, we passed no other hikers.

Taft Point
Fast forward to day four – the day after our hike up Yosemite Falls.  We weren't really up for anything super strenuous, but Glacier Point Road was open, after being closed earlier in the week because of snow and ice, so we headed up there for some moderate exercise.  Unfortunately for me, I left my camera battery charging at our cabin, so I was left with only my phone to take pictures in one of the more picturesque parts of the Park.  Still, I got some good shots, and took advantage of the mobile phone's panoramic option which was unavailable from my SLR.

It's not that I'm afraid of heights as much as I'm afraid of death.  You're pretty far up at Taft Point and only one small portion has a railing.  Much of the area along these cliffs over Yosemite Valley is just one unprotected dizzy spell away from a 4000 foot drop onto a group of tourists getting off their bus for the first time since the stop in Fresno.  As I approached the edge I found myself wanting to get on hands and knees to minimize any chance of such an accident.  But I really wanted to look over the edge, in part because the view was amazing, but also because it was something few people do, and something I wouldn't have many opportunities to do in my lifetime.  Yosemite is an amazing and rare piece of earth, and this area around Glacier Point is a prime viewing spot.

Leading up to Taft Point are The Fissures – cracks in the earth that wedge into the sides of the cliffs and add another dimension to the anxious wonder of this part of the Park.

Beyond all of this, you can follow a trail – the Pohono Trail – around the edge of the cliffs and over the Sentinel Creek on your way to Sentinel Dome.  The day before we had seen Sentinel Dome from the other side of Yosemite Valley above Yosemite Falls.  I had hoped the road would open before the end of the week so we could climb to the top – to a height even greater than the top of Yosemite Falls.  And indeed, as we moved closer to the Dome, we could look across the expanse and see a thin, zigzagging line along the left side of Yosemite Falls and several thousand feet below us.  This was the trail we could still feel in our legs as we walked up a much less rigorous incline towards the top of Sentinel Dome.

Panoramic view from Sentinel Dome.
Finally at the summit, the reward was a 360 degree view of a half dozen wonders of the world (official and non-official): the snow-capped high peaks of the Sierra Nevada, Half Dome, El Capitan, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, and Yosemite Falls.  The windy cold would normally lead you to go inside and get under a blanket, but being present here was just too incredible for worries about hypothermia.  If I believed in God, I would think he placed this perch here on purpose for humankind to take pictures and post them to their blog and such.

That was the climax of this visit to Yosemite.  We drove back down into the Valley after that and scrambled up the lower part of Sentinel Creek for a mini-picnic looking up at Sentinel Falls and marveling at the fact that we were way up there just a few hours ago.  The next morning, any hope of one last hike was dashed by rainfall.  By noon, we were eating bean burritos in the Central Valley and looking forward to reuniting with our dogs.