Monday, December 31, 2007

December 31, 2007 For the New Year

Consider This for December 31, 2007-For the New Year

The surge is not working and anyone who believes that it is working is wrong. The surge is only working in one respect. The insurgents have backed off from killing a lot of American Soldiers for the time being. They have finally figured out that as long as they kill American Soldiers we will keep soldiers in Iraq. If it appears that the surge is working then the American Soldiers will leave sooner. Simple math. Less killing. Americans leave sooner. End of story.

Tonight at midnight we get to start all over again with a brand new year that has yet to be screwed up. I am sure that there are plans to do that quickly before all of the citizens notice.

Maybe this year we can finally remove ourselves from Iraq before we kill another 4,000 American boys and girls. I don’t have a lot of hope for this one as there are a ton of misguided folks out there who view supporting the war and supporting President Bush as somehow being patriotic. Not true regardless of how far you want to stretch that one.

I am a veteran of the cold war and was in the Air Force during the Viet Nam Era. I consider myself a patriot and I ended over 47 years of public service this year. I also do not think that the United States won the cold war. The Soviet Union defeated itself with foolish economic policies. When the Berlin Wall came down it came down because the people on the other side could not afford to buy food.

I have been a student of history all of my life and still teach it at the college level. We all remember the famous quote from Spanish-American political philosopher George Santayana who famously said, "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.” Truer words were ever spoken by anyone anywhere.

I was born a couple of months after the beginning of World War II. My father was drafted at age 35 with two small children at home. He was a Navy Corpsman and was detached with a Marine Corps outfit in the South Pacific. Maybe if the draft came back people would view any war more personally. You really feel connected when you or your children might go somewhere and get shot at to defend some vague mission.

As early as I can remember there were men in the taverns and coffee shops in Iowa talking about their adventures in Europe and the South Pacific defending us against Fascism. They were all heroes in my eyes and were certainly, “The Greatest Generation.”

As I grew older I worked with many men who had returned from fighting in Korea. It was not the same. Some of the good things about serving in the military had been lost in Korea and many of the veterans were unsure of why they were there fighting the North Koreans and Chinese Armies.

This past week a former soldier from World War I died. The report indicated that he was one of three remaining American World War I. If you ever get confused about the War in Iraq you should study the involvement of the United States in World War I. I am sure that the surviving soldiers are still confused about what happened. I read about it all the time and I am not sure either.

When you seriously consider all of the wars from World War I to Iraq you can see a pattern immerging. We have always either been in a war or preparing for a war or recovering from a war. It is not always easy to see why other than the fact that Generals need to win battles and the poor people of the world need to die in those battles.

I am way too old to ever go to war or into the military again but I cry daily for those who do. Let’s hope that this is the year when it all ends forever.

Monday, December 24, 2007

December 24, 2007 Winter Soltice

Consider This for December 24, 2007—Winter Solstice

In case you missed it the Winter Solstice occurred last Friday at exactly 11:08 PM. I think that I must have slept through it. Hardly noticed the event other than it sounded like a bunch of druids outside my house about that time.

It marks the shortest day of the year. Last Friday there was exactly 9 hours, 21 minutes and 21 seconds of daylight. There was one second more of daylight on Saturday. I hope you put it to good use.

It also marked the beginning of winter. The season when Ullr (hopefully) comes screaming out of the north giving us lots of snow and cold weather. Not sure if I am ready for all of that.

Traditionally the busiest week of the ski season is the week between Christmas and New Years. I would begin to question tradition when I 70 and Highway 9 are already jam packed and have been for a week or so. Lots of cars mean lots of people. Lots of people mean lots of spending. Lots of spending means a good strong economy. Bring it on because you never know when it is going to stop snowing.

The busiest month of the year is always March thanks to Spring Break in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Don’t know why I think that other than during all the years I ran the jail it seemed that is where many of our guests came from during March.

The busiest day of the year is President’s Day. I heard a comedian a couple of weeks ago do a routine on how no one knows why it is called President’s Day. For all you comedians out there and the rest of you who don’t know the name came from combining Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays national holidays into one Monday holiday.

I always thought that it was ironic that anyone who did not like snow and winter sports would ever live here and have to put up with the crowds and the problems that come with the skiers. I wrote an article in the 1980s about how tourists shop in groups at the grocery store. They wander around making group decisions on what brand of catsup to buy or how many bananas they need for the week.

I have always been proud of the fact that people all over the world know of Summit County. They might not know the names of the four ski areas but they know Summit County. It is like Cher, Madonna or other one name luminaries. Summit County is right up there with Steamboat, Vail, Aspen and Telluride.

Summit County is atypical in so many ways. We are a real Colorado mountain county with a couple of ski areas dating from the 1960s and before. We have character and a certain brand strength that other locations do not have.

Someone living in Summit County and not liking cold weather and snow is much akin to a conservative Republican living here in one of the most liberal counties in Colorado. It brings new meaning to the biblical word, “longsuffering.” There is always Wyoming that has snow and a lot of conservative Republicans too. Ski Wyoming.

The most liberal counties in Colorado according to a couple of sources are Denver, Boulder, Summit, Pitkin and San Miguel. Four of the five have ski areas. Actually they all have ski areas as Winter Park is owned by the City and County of Denver. Maybe there is a doctoral dissertation in political science there somewhere and the political correlation to cold weather and snow. Ski Liberal.

Another strange piece of information that I have heard recently is that if you flattened all of the mountains in Colorado it would become the largest state in the union in land mass. That should make all of our Texas skiers more comfortable. Ski Texas.

Also keep in mind that Colorado used to be in Kansas. We did not like that so we became our own state. We just let people from Kansas buy and rent houses here now. Ski Kansas.

Colorado was also part of Mexico many years ago. I know that would make former Congressman and now former Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo and the Minutemen angry to know that Colorado Springs and Summit County was once part of Mexico. Ski Mexico.

Monday, December 17, 2007

December 17, 2007 Newspaper Etiquette

Consider This for December 17, 2007-Newspaper Etiquette

I have been doing mediation, counseling and facilitation for the past twenty years. One of the ground rules in each of these is to address issues and not people. Attack the problem and not the person.

I know that the Letters to the Editor section of the paper is one of the best read parts of any newspaper. I am sure that there are people who rip open the paper and go to that section first. The sports page is probably the second choice and then the front page.

The Summit Daily News has now included a “comments” section on the on-line edition. The comments are much shorter and have less substance than a normal letter but still contain a lot of emotion.

I have to confess that I read every letter to the editor and check the comments section of the on-line paper as well. The home page of the Summit Daily News also includes sections named “Most Commented” and “Most Viewed.” I would direct your attention to both of these as each gives you a good indication of what you and your neighbors are reading and issues that they may care about the most.

The upsetting part of both the letters and comments are the personal attacks. Most of the time the letter or the comment is attacking the person who wrote the letter or comment and not about the article or the column in question.

The writers will often direct all of their words and thoughts toward the intelligence of the other person and how unqualified they are or how wrong they are in their position.

I am always reminded of the “Prime Minister’s Questions” in the coverage of the British Parliament on CSPAN. Someone will rise to attack the Prime Minister and start by saying, “The Honorable Prime Minister is both a statesman and a gentleman but in this case he has become an idiot.” See how you need to be polite before you strike the death blow?

I am also reminded how important the First Amendment of the Constitution is and how we need to allow and encourage the people to speak out in public and in our newspapers.

In 1983 the editor of the Summit County Sentinel was a good editor and a good writer.

I was the Undersheriff at the time working as the number to man for the Sheriff.

The editor wrote a front page article with the headline (paraphrased) “Gary Lindstrom Resigns.” He went on to say that I was under attack for various reasons and that I had decided to resign under pressure.

Nothing was further from the truth. I had not resigned and I was not under pressure to resign. I asked the Sheriff if he knew anything about the story and he said that he did not. I called the editor and asked about the story explaining that I had not resigned. He said that he had a “reliable source” who had told him I had resigned. I told him that I had not. He did not apologize or offer a retraction.

I did resign about ten years later. The editor resigned a few months later and moved to the northwest. I am not sure that he is still in the newspaper business.

My point is that I had good cause to attack Mike and get my pound of flesh. I did nothing other than to continue to stay where I was and continue as Undersheriff. Most would think that I had good cause to attack him. My thought at the time was why punish him because he was unprofessional and used very bad judgment.

I know that many of you feel some sort of righteous anger over some letter that someone wrote to the paper. I also know that you feel justified in attacking some person for what they wrote.

I think it is much better to take the high road and attack the issue and not the person.

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 10, 2007 Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Consider This for December 10, 2007-Colorado Avalanche Information Center

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center staff probably saves hundreds of lives each year. They do not get the credit they deserve. They are like invisible ninjas out there doing a good job and saving lives.

I remember in years past how they had to scramble for funding from local counties because the State of Colorado did not support them very well. I think that the worst thing they have to deal with is the fact that many people do not check with their website or call their number before heading into the backcountry in winter. They probably spend some time saying, “What if they had only called?” each winter.

Check them out at or give them a call at 668-0600. When I checked their site last Wednesday the avalanche danger for Summit County was considerable. Lots of new snow combined with sustained high winds which is a deadly combination.

I think that many people believe that all you need in the backcountry is a good pair of cross country skis or snowshoes and a bright sunny day.

In my opinion the staff members from the center are scientists who use all of the data available to put together daily reports of avalanche conditions throughout the state.
Factors such as snow accumulation and wind will increase the possibility of an avalanche. The heavier the snow load causes layers of snow and ice to build until the weight combined with the freeze thaw cycle and wind causes the layers to slide. All of this process is hidden under white fluffy snow.

As the winter progresses take a look on either side of I 70 and you will see slides on a daily basis. CDOT will use their military cannon to shoot the overhangs to cause a controlled slide. Above Loveland Ski area there are several slide chutes referred to as the Seven Sisters. They would slide and close Loveland Pass a lot when I moved to Colorado in 1970 and they continue to slide.

All of the ski areas do a great job with avalanche control. I can sit in my living room in Lakeview Meadows and hear the explosions from the slide control charges set off by the Breckenridge Ski Patrol. You virtually never hear of an avalanche at a ski area due to the good work of the Ski Patrol.

A week ago a skier was caught in an avalanche east of Cameron Pass in Larimer County. Fortunately, in that case, the victim’s friends were able to rescue him. That is a very good thing because there are only minutes available before the victim will die under the snow. There is not enough time for the local Search and Rescue Group to respond.

There was an earlier slide incident on Jones Pass in November also with a good outcome.

I was with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office off and on from 1976 to 1995 before I became a County Commissioner. As Undersheriff I spent many days and nights working with Summit County Search and Rescue looking for victims of avalanches. Unfortunately, most of the time, the search resulted in finding the victim’s body.

I was also the County Coroner from 1987 to 1995. Besides working with Search and Rescue and law enforcement, I also had the task of notifying the next of kin. One of the most common responses was always, “At least they died doing what they enjoyed.” I always felt that was ironic. Why not do what you can to not die and continue to enjoy doing what you were doing. Death is so very final. After you die there is no more skiing.

An interesting thing from my experience is that the victim was nearly always an expert backcountry skier. Most were highly thought of in the community as someone who knew what they were doing when it came to skiing in the backcountry.

The are no Ski Patrol personnel doing avalanche control in the backcountry. There is no CDOT cannon shooting potential avalanches in the backcountry. All you have protecting yourself is your good common sense and information you can get for free from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. I do not want to read about you later this year.