Fox host: “I want to punish these people. Sorry to say that, but that’s what I want to do.”

“…I’m sick and tired of a massive, bloated federal bureaucracy living on our backs, and taking money out of us, a lot more money than most of us earn in the private sector, then getting a furlough, and then getting their money back at the end of it. Sorry, I’m not for that. I want to punish these people. Sorry to say that, but that’s what I want to do.”
— Stuart Varney, Fox Business host on furloughed federal workers.

When Varney says “us,” he doesn’t actually, literally mean usVarney’s net worth is $10 million. So this is exactly like when Willard Romney complained that government workers earn more than he does.

In reality, the super wealthy want the conservative base to believe and agree with the notion that a middle-class wage is an unfathomable luxury that shouldn’t be paid in the public sector AND shouldn’t be something that ordinary people even aspire to in the private sector. Stuart Varney must resent that he’s not getting a new tax cut this year for his income bracket.

Unfortunately for everyone, the Fox viewing audience gobbles up this delicious bullshit and always holds out their plates for seconds. Be happy with your Walmart wages, baggers. Keep your standards low and keep voting for the one percent. Praise Jesus! 

Essential Fed or Non-essential Fed: that is the question.

“I can’t believe there’s one of us, Mr. Speaker, that would serve on a Board of Directors and treat a large portion of our employees with such disrespect, with such lack of consideration, with such contempt at times, as we treat our civilian employees.” –  Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)


Forbes answers part of the questions: “Who is “non-essential” and who isn’t? And what would stay open and what would close?”  Note that like the Republicans in Congress and their bagger-base, this Forbes’ author likes using the “non-essential” label for certain federal employees instead of the less pejorative “excepted” and “non-excepted.” (Also, I added NON-ESSENTIAL and highlighting to some of the bullet points from the Forbes article below. I’ve linked more information from other articles as well.):

  • Non-essential employees, about 1/3 of the federal workforce, would be furloughed. The distinction between non-essential employees and those who are needed is discretionary but is guided by instructions from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A memorandum issued by OMB in 1980 defines “essential” government services and “essential” employees as those providing for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life and property; providing for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year or other funds remaining available for those purposes; and conducting essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property. With that (and subsequent guidance), federal agencies are required to determine which of their employees are “essential.”

Those federal employees determined to be excepted (“ESSENTIAL”), will work without pay. Right now, this includes the military.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Federal contractors could work, in theory, since those funds have already been approved – but there may not be adequate staffers to issue paperwork for jobs. And you know how D.C. loves paperwork.

Forbes astutely points out that the federal government should be more like private industry and have no paperwork whatsoever. I guess. And along those same lines, will congressional staffers be considered “essential” and, if so, is that not the height of bullshit? All paperwork is equal, but some paperwork is more equal than others.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: HeadStart programs – those grants for preschool children to attend school – would not be funded, meaning that school would be out for thousands of children.
  • Federal courts would remain open – for about 10 days. If the shutdown goes beyond 10 days, only “essential” work would continue. Most of the judiciary, including staffers, would not be paid until the shutdown was resolved. But Supreme Court justices and federal judges would collect paychecks.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Social Security benefits would still be paid out but if the shutdown continues beyond a few days, other services provided by the Social Security Administration – including Medicare applications and the issuance of Social Security cards – would likely be put on hold.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Foster care and adoption assistance services funded with federal funds or reliant on processing of federal paperwork would cease.
  • Agencies that focus on public safety would remain open…

So, for example: Air traffic control stays open. So do all emergency medical care, food-safety inspections, border patrol, federal prisons, law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system, operating the power grid, and guarding federal property.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Remarkably, however, the Center for Disease Control would likely be shut down as it was in the 1990s: that means no disease surveillance in the heart of flu season.

Also NON-ESSENTIAL: regulatory agencies like the FDA, EPA, SEC will be shut down completely. The National Institutes of Health stopped accepting new patients for clinical research and stopped answering hotline calls about medial questions.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Small business loans and mortgage insurance applications tied to government funding or agencies would not be processed.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Workplace safety inspections would stop.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Visas and passports would not be processed. In 1995, 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day of the furlough and 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed. The loss to the tourism industry was said to be acute.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Internal Revenue could see some furloughs (something they’re familiar with) but personnel to collect taxes would stay at work. As a rule of thumb, most of the folks who handle money would be safe from the shutdown. But the folks following the money? Agents and investigators would likely be told to stay home.

Because finding revenue for the federal government is NON-ESSENTIAL. Got it.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would delay processing alcohol, tobacco and firearms applications.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: National parks would close their doors; in 1995, that meant the loss of 7 million visitors, including those hoping to see the Grand Canyon, which was closed for the first time in its history. National museums would also remain shuttered; in 1995, that was an estimated loss of 2 million visitors. The loss to surrounding communities reliant on tourist dollars was estimated to be $14.2 million.

Again, revenue streams for the federal government is NON-ESSENTIAL.

  • NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Closures would extend to national cemeteries, where, among other things, headstones would not be laid. Additionally, medical and financial services for veterans would likely be put on hold.

Neither is the Federal Reserve, which will remain open.

NON-ESSENTIAL WORKERS: The federal government would have to take a break from working on drilling permits and processing applications for liquefied natural gas exports.

For full details of every agency’s plans, here’s the Agency Contingency page, which presents the contingency plans for agencies across the Federal Government in case of a shutdown on Tuesday, and which is now being updated continuously:


I think it’s safe to say that many Tea Party supporters might be upset about a delay on their Scooter Chairs and firearm applications. And if any of the other closures or slowdowns affect them personally because of employee furloughs, then they’ll randomly be upset about those things too. All because they can’t accept that a healthcare reform law goes into effect on Tuesday (shutdown or no) and that they hate taxes but love services.

It’s amusing to hear the Republican voting base / Fox “News” audience sneer about furloughed feds on radio, TV, and in every comment section on any article about a government shutdown. They’re the ones jumping straight to the conclusion that if a federal employee is considered “non-essential,” why do they even have a job to begin with? We don’t need ‘em! They’re just the paper-shufflers and pencil-pushes… WHEEEEE!! When the shutdown is over, let ‘em stay home for good!

First of all in non-emergency situations (or as we like to call it: Normal Life), as you can see from the partial list above, the non-excepted, “non-essential” employees are actually pretty essential to the smooth running of our government and its ability to collect revenue, ensure compliance with laws and regulations, protect consumers and public health, and provide so many diverse and essential services to a diversity of citizens and their needs.

Secondly, for any of the people who think that the jobs of federal workers who would be furloughed must be so unimportant (non-essential) that we could do without them forever, I’d sure like to hear what kinds of important and essential jobs they think they’re doing right now (or did before retirement) that our country couldn’t do without if the government’s narrow parameters for “essential” work were applied to their own jobs: protecting national security, the safety of life and property, and providing benefit payments.

I’m willing to bet there would be a lot of “non-essential” workers and business owners, if it came down to it, who would be furloughed and sent home too. Does that mean their jobs aren’t necessary in the long-run to their companies or customers, or that their businesses aren’t important in the long-run to our society and the economy as a whole? Based on OMB’s definition of what is considered “excepted” or “essential” work in the event of a shutdown, should we consider the work that millions of people do (or did) every day across America meaningless and not worth a paycheck?

It’s that ‘glass houses and stones’ thing.

Morning coffee: Thursday

Guess what’s 24 hours better than Wednesday…?

In celebration of the GOPeaparty House planning to vote to repeal Obamacare for the, I don’t know — 167th time?, and also probably take the debt ceiling hostage and succeed in shutting down the government at the end of the month, here’s a good summary about America and health care costs.

Why Are American Health Care Costs So High?

A video in which John Green discusses the complicated reasons why the United States spends so much more on health care than any other country in the world, and along the way reveals some surprising information, including that Americans spend more of their tax dollars on public health care than people in Canada, the UK, or Australia. 

Is the Republican-led House really voting to abolish Obamacare AGAIN? Yes.

Jonathan Chait: The House of Representatives is voting this week on a bill to keep the government from shutting down while also abolishing Obamacare. It’s not a move toward shutting down the government, nor is it a move away from shutting down the government. What it shows once again is that the House Republican leadership simply survives day by day, evading today’s problem by worsening tomorrow’s, with no overarching plan to avoid inflicting disaster upon the country or their own party.

And here we go again with a shutdown furlough:

Washington Post: Federal agencies have been told to begin planning for a partial government shutdown starting Oct. 1, including taking a fresh look at which employees would stay on the job and which would be sent home, if a funding agreement isn’t reached by then. Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia M. Burwell on Tuesday issued a memo ordering agencies to update plans they had made in similar past situations of budgetary gridlock… In a similar situation in early 2011, OMB said that of the roughly 2.1 million non-postal federal employees, all but about 800,000 would be kept on the job. Those continuing to work would be unpaid at first, but entitled to retroactive pay once new funding is in place.

Whatev. Screw federal workers and their families and their bills… screw the American economy in general, right? There is nothing more important to Republicans in Congress than flexing for the spittle-spewers.

In future elections, I hope every federal, state, and local civil servant (and their families and friends) will Never Forget how the GOPeaparty has treated them since the 2008 presidential campaign — which is like parasites on the dole instead of like people who chose government service / careers and who probably love their jobs.

What we have right now are a bunch of anti-government shysters running the government, who were put in place by fringe interests with one mission: to break the government and make sure it doesn’t function properly for The People. Let’s see if they succeed.

The sequester, furloughs and shutdowns: let people see what government really means

Matthew Cooper believes that if there’s one silver lining to be found in the “buffoonery” of the sequester, it’s that at least it will be a teachable moment for the public:

But if agencies and departments can’t or won’t juggle their books, hey, let people see what government really means. …There’s something sobering about aircraft carriers that won’t sail and forest rangers who won’t be paid to protect. The last time I can think of such an educational moment was not the short-lived government shutdown on the ’90s, but the Oklahoma City bombing. Who died in the blast? IRS officials, Secret Service agents, General Services Administration workers. President Clinton offered a reflection on the victims, “many there who served the rest of us, who worked to help the elderly and the disabled, who worked to support our farmers and our veterans, who worked to enforce our laws and to protect us. Let us say clearly, they served us well, and we are grateful,” he said.

In 2001, looking back on the bombing, Clinton said: “And I had, like every politician, on occasion, gotten upset by some example of government waste or something the way we all do, and referred derisively to government bureaucrats. And I promised myself that I would never use those two words together for the rest of my life. I would treat those people who serve our country with respect, whether they’re in uniform, in law enforcement, firefighter, nurses, any other things.” I’m not comparing the tragedy of Oklahoma City to sequestration. One is evil; the other buffoonery. But they each have the effect of making you realize what government employees do.

Some examples of what’s at stake: 

Few corners of the federal government directly touch the public as do the 398 parks, monuments and historic sites, which draw 280 million visits a year. The system would feel the effects immediately of a $110 million slash should budget cuts take effect March 1 — from a three-week delay of Yellowstone’s spring opening to save money on snow plowing, to shuttered campgrounds and visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway. [..] The prospect of dirtier restrooms, sporadic grass mowing and litter pickup, and a shortage of rangers to answer questions and patrol has set off a furious campaign by a coalition of park advocates, tourism officials and businesses from to Maine to Wyoming. Their plea: The reductions would not just set back conservation efforts but also undermine local economies around the parks that rely on tourism.

The Defense Department will notify Congress as early as Wednesday of plans to furlough almost 800,000 civilian employees starting in April if automatic budget cuts take effect, according to a defense official. [...] By law, however, DoD must give lawmakers 45 days notice of employee furloughs. If the spending cuts, formally known as sequestration, begin as scheduled March 1, the Pentagon will likely send most civilians home for one day per week for up to 22 weeks through the end of the fiscal year in September, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a House committee last week. The furloughs would save DoD about $5 billion out of the $46 billion total it will have to cut under sequestration, Carter said. Military personnel would be exempt.

Jessica Wright, acting Defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said that while the impact of sequestration on “military personnel would be devastating, the impact on civilians is catastrophic.” [...] “The first-, second- and third-order effect will be felt in local commands and communities. It’s not a Beltway phenomenon,” she said, noting that 80 percent of defense civilian employees work outside the Washington area. The 20 percent decrease in pay would affect business and communities and confront “many families with tough decisions.”

The Army estimates automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect March 1 will have a $15 billion economic impact and affect more than 300,000 jobs nationwide. Hardest hit states include Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Among the least affected: Delaware, Wyoming, Montana and Rhode Island. [...] The cuts will affect every Army installation, according to the documents. States with large bases and military contractors are taking the biggest hits. Texas, for instance, would face a $2.4 billion economic loss from the Army’s budget cuts. Nearly 30,000 Army civilian employees will be furloughed if the cuts go into effect. They will lose $180 million in pay.

If across-the-board budget cuts take effect as scheduled next month, every FBI employee, including special agents, will be furloughed for almost three weeks by the end of September. Ditto for many law enforcement officers at the Department of Homeland Security, where layoffs are also a possibility. Furloughs for Agriculture Department food safety inspectors will mean temporary shutdowns of meat processing plants. At the Social Security Administration, more than 1,500 temporary workers and re-employed retirees will be shown the door.

Budget cuts could result in up to 20 percent pay cut for federal workers:

Agriculture: Plans to furlough about one-third of its workforce, which would lead to “a nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants during a furlough of inspection personnel.”

Commerce: “Up to 2,600 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) employees would have to be furloughed, approximately 2,700 positions would not be filled, and the number of contractors would have to be reduced by about 1,400.” Census vacancies would remain vacant.

Justice: “The Department estimates that it would lose the equivalent of more than 1,000 federal agents . . . as well as 1,300 correctional officers.”

“These employees aren’t some fat cat bureaucrats in a plush Washington office. They are the firefighters who safeguard our bases, the health-care professionals who treat injured soldiers in military hospitals, the mechanics who repair our tanks and planes, the logistics personnel who ensure supplies make it to our troops, the acquisition experts who prevent big defense contractors from ripping off taxpayers. Congress [needs] to find a solution to this manufactured crisis that does not punish our hard-working federal employees, cripple our economic recovery or gut federal programs and services.” — J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees

In addition to all the lost hours that went towards serving the public in one way or another – you never miss it until it’s gone! — imagine the lost commerce locally and regionally because of lost income. Civilian employees with the DoD (among others) stand to lose 8 hours in pay per week through September — that works out to a 20% pay cut. Could you afford that? Not to mention the lost incomes of all the people who will be sent home permanently or who could have been employed and who won’t be now.

All this manufactured crisis and upheaval because Republicans won’t agree to close some tax loopholes for the wealthiest to balance massive spending cuts (in a fragile economy!) with new revenue. In addition to March 1, we also have March 27 to look forward to. That’s when the government’s continuing resolution (funding to run the government) expires and when Republicans will undoubtedly threaten another government shutdown when they’re asked to ‘compromise.’

Let’s not forget two important things: right now the economy is improving and the deficit is shrinking.  And maybe that’s why Republicans are so unhappy. As former GOP Virginia governor Jim Gilmore said recently: “They think spending is the most important thing. It’s not.”

(Graphics above via the NYTimes)

Attention federal workers: the Republican Party STILL hates you

Washington Post: The House will consider legislation next week that would extend the freeze on basic federal pay rates through the end of 2013, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). The bill, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and cosponsored by 28 Republicans, would block a planned raise of 0.5 percent that is scheduled to take effect after a temporary spending measure expires in March. Republicans have introduced similar legislation previously, but Cantor’s quick scheduling of the bill for a vote demonstrates the priority House GOP members give to holding down federal pay.

Joe Davidson: Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called his action “a continuation of the anti-federal-worker line of attack that became an all-too-familiar staple of the 112th Congress, particularly in the House. More than two dozen bills were introduced during that two-year period aimed at federal pay, benefits and rights.” [...]  “The hardworking men and women who make up the federal workforce have made a substantial sacrifice over the past two years to help bring down the deficit,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Efforts by House Republicans to constantly use federal employees as a piggy bank — especially when the vast majority of their caucus refuses to ask millionaires to contribute more to reducing our deficit — are unconscionable. We cannot keep asking them to contribute more than their fair share as we work to put our fiscal house in order.

GovExec: “This bill is nothing more than another direct attack on hardworking public servants,” said NARFE President Joseph A. Beaudoin, in a Jan. 18 letter to representatives. “Instead of pushing political messaging bills, Congress should focus on the real issues lawmakers need to address in the next two months, including sequestration, the debt limit and the expiring continuing resolution.” Beaudoin criticized some members’ reliance on a 2012 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that federal workers on average earn more than their private-sector counterparts. The study controlled for various factors, including occupation, education and work experience; despite its overall conclusion, CBO did find that most highly educated feds earn less than their private-sector counterparts. “But even if you assume that federal employees are overpaid on average — an incorrect assumption — it does not follow that all federal employees are overpaid,” Beaudoin wrote. “[...] Both Beaudoin and Kelley said government workers have already contributed $103 billion to deficit reduction over the next decade as a result of the pay freeze and the smaller pay increase for 2013 that President Obama wants for employees. Based on the Employment Cost Index, federal pay scales should have increased by 1.7 percent in January. Beaudoin also cited feds’ contribution of $15 billion from the 2.3 percent increase in retirement contributions that new hires must pay. “Enough is enough,” Beaudoin said. “It is time Congress found other ways to reduce the deficit then to continually take from those who dedicate their lives to public service.”

Wildfires in Colorado — High Park Fire, Waldo Canyon Fire, and six more: How you can help


denverpostHow to help the victims of Colorado’s wildfires

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 26, 2012, the High Park fire near Fort Collins has burned 83,205 acres and 248 homes, and is 45% contained; the Weber fire has burned 8,300 acres and is 0% contained; the Waldo Canyon fire has consumed 5,168 acres and is 5% contained; and the Last Chance fire, now 100% contained, burned 38,400 acres and destroyed 11 structures in one day. Other fires are burning in Colorado including the State Line fire and the Little Sand fire.

If you want to help the victims of these fires, we’ve compiled this list of the best places to direct help and donations.

Wildfires in Colorado: The Waldo Canyon fire burns an entire neighborhood of Colorado Springs
The Waldo Canyon fire burns an entire neighborhood near the foothills of Colorado Springs. Colorado has endured nearly a week of 100-plus-degree days and low humidity creating a devastating formula for volatile wildfires across the state. (Photograph: Helen H Richardson/AP — Guardian)

Colorado’s on fire: Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, CO

USATODAY: A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters’ perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 32,000 residents, including the U.S. Air Force Academy, and destroying an unknown number of homes.  The blaze doubled in size overnight to more than 24 square miles, fire information officer Rob Dyerberg said Wednesday. He said homes were destroyed but authorities don’t yet know how many.

Statistics via InciWeb:

SIZE 15,517 acres

publicradiointernational: Wildfire engulfs homes in Colorado Springs. (Photo by Wesley Carr via Twitter)

More than 800 firefighters are battling a fast-moving wildfire that has already chased 32,000 residents from their homes. More.

32,000 evacuated in fast-moving Colorado Springs wildfire –

A wind-fueled wildfire of epic proportions breached fire lines Tuesday and entered Colorado Springs, Colorado, bringing to at least 32,000 the number of people evacuated in the area and at the U.S. Air Force Academy, authorities said.

“The fire conditions could not be worse,” said Anne Rys-Sikora, spokeswoman for a multiagency fire response team. “It is like a convection oven out there.”

Residents of the North Mountain Shadows and Peregrine communities in Colorado Springs were ordered to leave their homes, authorities said.

Multiple structures in North Mountain Shadows were being affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire, officials said Tuesday night.

Colorado Springs set a record high of 101 on Tuesday as firefighters contended with brutal conditions, including ash falling on highways and neighborhoods. Officials rushed in crews and aerial equipment in a bid to slow the fire.

The 6,200-acre fire remained only 5% contained. Officials labeled it as exhibiting “extreme fire behavior.”

think-progress: 32,000 flee Colorado Springs as wildfires worsen. Gov. John Hickenlooper said “It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine.”

Photo via @scottseibold

High Park Fire: 6/25 update: 83,205 acres burned — Colorado ablaze with 7 more wildfires

Current Situation: Monday firefighters will continue to strengthen the line on the north side of the fire. Firefighters will also monitor areas with structures and other areas throughout. Staffing will be heavy in the southwest portion. Reinforcing lines and mopping up areas will also take place. Crews continued to work throughout the night. [...] The total number of homes lost is now 248 after additional homes were lost late last week in the Glacier View and Hewlett subdivisions. Details of this are available in the assessment article to the right.

Total Personnel 2,037    
Size 83,205 acres
Percent Contained 45%
Gallons of water dumped to date 2.2 million gallons
Cost to date $29.6 million

Wildfires punish Colorado – thousands evacuated – SFGate — Wildfires moved in on some of Colorado’s most popular summer tourist destinations over the weekend, demolishing nearly two dozen homes and other structures near Rocky Mountain National Park and emptying hotels and campgrounds at the base of Pikes Peak. With eight wildfires burning, including a fire that has scorched more than 118 square miles and destroyed at least 248 homes near Fort Collins, Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade.

Eight wildfires roaring across Colorado – Boulder Daily Camera — On the hottest day of the year so far, wildfires erupted throughout Colorado on Saturday, producing fast-moving fires that burned down homes in Estes Park, forced evacuations in Colorado Springs and shut down state highways in southern Colorado. Firefighting officials are girding for more of the same as a hot and dry weather pattern likely won’t lift until midweek. A jetliner full of firefighters has been summoned to the Western Slope, where buses will take them throughout the state; firefighting planes and helicopters are being positioned around Colorado to be ready to strike; and fire managers are set for a tough battle over the next few days. “We are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best,” said Steve Segin of the Rocky Mountain fire-incident team. “We just have to hope Mother Nature gives us a break.”

image: wildfiretoday

Colorado High Park Fire: 6/23 update — 75,537 acres burned, 45% contained

Current Situation: The incident commander reported that an estimated 2,000 additional acres burned on the High Park Fire today. Under red flag warnings, with recorded 84-degree temperatures at Red Mountain, gusts over 30 mph and relative humidity around 5 percent, the fire crossed the Narrows, establishing itself on the north side of Poudre Canyon. Hot shot crews were attempting a direct attack, but due to the intensity and rapid spread of the fire both the hot shot crews and engines involved in structure protection in Glacier View had to pull back for safety reasons.

Total Personnel 1,879    
Size 75,537 acres
Percent Contained 45%
Gallons of water dumped to date 1.3 million gallons
Cost to date $19.6 million Nearly a 1,000 evacuation notices were sent out Friday to residents near the High Park Fire. Friday’s evacuation area centered mainly along Red Feather’s Lake Road (CR 74) as spot fires moved into the Glacier View area.

Denver Post — Photo 1 of 52: Nebraska National Guard crewmembers of Company C 2nd-135th General Support Aviation Battalion dump water from a Bambi bucket onto flames of the High Park fire, in Larimer County, Colo., approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins, June 18, 2012. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tate Petersen, Company C, 2nd-135th General Support Aviation Support)


Photo 50 of 52: Kansas crew members observe the area as they fly to their designated location with a Bambi bucket full of water to help at the High Park fire in Larimer County, Colo., approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins, June 19, 2012. (Photo by Sgt. Ryan Kohlman, Company G, 2nd-135th General Support Aviation Battalion)

Update: High Park Fire, Colorado: 58,046 acres burned, 45% contained

InciWeb reports: The High Park Fire is located approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins and has burned 58,046 acres to date and is estimated 45 percent contained.

  • 1748 personnel are working on the fire with a 24-hour schedule with night shifts and day shifts.
  • Yesterday a Red Flag Warning was issued for the fire area indicating critical fire weather. In the afternoon, winds shifted to the northwest and relative humidity dropped to 3-4 percent. Wind gusts of up to 30 – 50 miles per hour (mph) were reported. With the shift in wind direction and very low relative humidity, fire activity increased on the southeast flank of the fire near Laurence Creek Lane, Redstone Canyon and Horsetooth Mountain. The fire spotted across the line on the southeast corner, and numerous resources were moved to the area to assist. All aircraft was grounded until early evening due to high winds and low visibility.
  • You can listen to some of the EMS, Fire, and LE personnel who are involved HERE.

Denver Post: After relatively optimal weather days in fighting the fire on Friday and Saturday, winds, low humidity and heat fueled the blaze Sunday and critical conditions are back on Monday. Poudre Fire Authority Chief Tom DeMint likened the fire to a “dragon.” “The dragon was sleeping” late last week, DeMint said. “Now, it’s awake.” As of Sunday, the High Park fire has cost about $12.6 million to fight.

ABC News: Police arrested a 30-year-old Denver man, Michael Stillman Maher, on Saturday, accusing him of using phony firefighter’s credentials to enter the fire’s restricted area. His truck had stolen government license plates, police said. Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. Maher at first evaded authorities but was found later that night at a local bar. He was arrested for impersonating a firefighter, theft and attempting to influence a public servant. Police say they found stolen property and a gun in Stillman’s car, although they did not say if it came from a home evacuated because of the fire.

Update: High Park Fire, Colorado: 54,230 acres burned, $9.1 million cost to date, 20% contained

The High Park Fire… has burned 54,230 acres to date and is estimated 20 percent contained. Additional firefighters have arrived with more than 1,533 personnel working on the fire with a 24-hour schedule with night shifts and day shifts. Steep terrain, limited access, and the presence of dense stands of beetle killed trees to the west of the fire area are of concern to fire officials. via: InciWeb:

  • Significant: Aggressive backing and flanking fire in all fuel types exposed to solar radiation. Fire behavior moderated due to late morning, early afternoon thunderstorm development. Single tree torching observed on the north end of the fire. Fire continues to push west into heavy beetle killed fuels. [...] Colorado Army National Guard and Colorado Air National Guard assisting with road closures and also providing fireline personnel, heavy engines and equipment; Damage assessment teams are validating and identifying damaged and destroyed structures; A significant number of structures were lost during the first 48 hours of the incident. The number of structures confirmed lost will be continually updated as they are assessed and verified; and the approximate ownership as of 6/15/2012 at 1600 is 69% state/private and 31% USFS.
  • You can listen to some of the EMS, Fire, and LE personnel who are involved HERE.

Boulder Daily Camera: The number of homes destroyed in the giant High Park Fire west of Fort Collins jumped to 112 on Friday… [and] has cost an estimated $9.1 million to fight.

Denver Post: Firefighters plan today to deploy an apparatus rarely used on wildfires to battle the 54,000 acre High Park fire, hoping to more rapidly build a defensible fire line on the north and west flanks. It’s called a feller buncher. “It’s a very large piece of equipment,” said Reghan Cloudman, spokeswoman for the fire. “You can cut a lot of trees quickly.” [...] With more than 54,230 acres burned, the High Park fire is the third-largest in recorded Colorado history. Only the Hayman fire at 137,760 acres and Missionary Ridge, at 71,739 acres were larger, and those fires happened during the drought of 2002.

Fire explodes on the south side of Poudre Canyon as the High Park wildfire burns west of Fort Collins, Colo. on June 14. (ED ANDRIESKI / AP)

Tony Rayl / The Yuma Pioneer / AP
A wildfire sends up a huge wall of smoke, forcing authorities to temporarily close a section of U.S. Highway 34 east of Yuma County, Colo. (TONY RAYL / THE YUMA PIONEER / AP)

High Park Fire, Colorado: 52,068 acres burned, growth potential “extreme”

A helicopter flies through Poudre Canyon on Thursday as flames scorch the forest south of the river. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Postvia: coloradodaily

The wildfire has grown about 5,000 acres over the past 48 hours, with the current total acres burned reportedly at 52,068. Via: InciWeb –

The High Park Fire is located approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins and has burned 52,068 acres to date and is and estimated 15 percent contained. [...] Today’s weather calls for building thunderstorms in the afternoon with winds developing out of the NE as storms move east over the plains. Late yesterday afternoon, a thunderstorm cell parked over the southwest corner of the fire. Downdrafts from the storm caused an increase in fire behavior, which launched embers into the wind, causing the spot fire on the north side of the Poudre River.

  • Personnel involved: 1,387
  • Significant: Continued evacuations of 600+ residences; Road closures are still in effect; Local residents have been allowed to return on a stand-by basis to some subdivisions on the east side of the fire; Spot fire north. [...] Colorado Army National Guard and Colorado Air National Guard assisting with road closures and also providing fireline personnel, heavy engines and equipment; Damage assessment teams are validating and identifying damaged and destroyed structures. Secretary of Interior Salazar visited the fire on 6/14/2012. A state-wide ban on opening burning was issued by the Governor today. Substantial increase in total costs to date due to use of actual expenses versus previoiusly used estimates.

You can listen to some of the EMS, Fire, and LE personnel who are involved HERE.

KMGH Denver: Another 200 evacuation notifications were issued overnight at the High Park Fire burning near Fort Collins. At 11 p.m. Thursday, residents in the Glacier View area east from Eiger Road to Rams Horn Mountain Road and north from the Mount Blanc Guardian Peak area to the north end of Mount Everest Drive were told to evacuate immediately.

The Denver Post: Incident commander Bill Haberstick said the weather might aid the battle today. Humidity levels are expected to rise to about 60 percent in the valleys and 40 percent on ridge tops, up from 20 percent to 30 percent in the previous two days. “This is extremely good news,” he said. “Humidity retards the fire’s ability to grow and ignite other fuels.”

AP Raw video:

High Park Fire, Colorado: 46,600 acres burned, $3 million cost to date

Updated information on the High Park Fire, which grew by “only” about 3,000 acres since yesterday. The fire is heading into areas of beetle killed trees. From InciWeb:

The High Park Fire is approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins and burned an estimated 46,600 acres and continues to grow. The western flank of the fire is active and continues to be an area of concern, particularly as it moves into an area that contains 70 percent beetle killed trees. The northwest portion of the fire also is actively burning and will be a focus for firefighters today. A 120-acre spot fire on the north side of Hwy 14 has been contained as of Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, firefighters were able to anchor the SW corner of the fire and are still working to establish fire line there. Line has been built in the northeast corner and along the east flank of the fire. Structure protection is ongoing throughout the fire area, including in the interior and along the perimeter.The fire is now more than 10 percent contained. More than 1,000 personnel are working on the fire as of Wednesday. In addition, some 50 National Guard members have been called in to assist with roadblocks. Information will be posted here when roadblocks are lifted.

  • Personnel involved: 1,000
  • Planned actions: Air resources on scene include: 5 heavy air tankers, 5 SEATs (single engine air tankers), 4 Type 1 heavy helitankers, 3 Type 2 helicopters, 4 Type 3 helicopters and 3 Blackhawk helicopers. Approximately 37 engines are on scene. A Type 1 Management Team assumed command as of 6:30 a.m. June 11. Additional resources have been ordered.

You can listen to some of the EMS, Fire, and LE personnel who are involved HERE.

Interactive perimeter map: This interactive perimeter map of the High Park fire burning west of Fort Collins, Colorado shows each overnight fire perimeter as released by Via: Denver Post

Sunset on June 10th, through the High Park Fire Smoke in Colorado. Taken by traviswerbelow in South East Fort Collins.

From the CSU campus – via: foryourblueskies

(photo via the Denver Post)

High Park Fire, Colorado: 43,433 acres now burned, still not contained

The “good” news is that the fire grew by only about 6,500 acres since yesterday – which is much less than the over 28,000 acres it grew the day before. However, there will be winds today.

From InciWeb:

The High Park Fire is approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins and burned an estimated 43,433 acres and continues to grow. The northeast portion of the fire is active and continues to be an area of concern. In addition, the northwest portion of the fire is burning hot. On Monday, firefighters were able to anchor the SW corner of the fire, which will help start to establish fire line. Air support helped fightfighters make ground on south flank and eastern flank of fire, but fire remains zero percent contained. Weather Tuesday is expected to be warmer and drier with winds out of the southwest and gusts up to 18 mph. [...] There has been one confirmed death of a 62-year-old woman as a result of the fire. For more information visit the Larimer County Sheriff’s website.

  • Personnel involved: 500
  • Air resources on scene include:Air resources on scene include: 5 heavy air tankers, 5 SEATs (single engine air tankers), 4 Type 1 heavy helitankers, 3 Type 2 helicopters, 4 Type 3 helicopters and 3 Blackhawk helicopers. Approximately 26 engines are on scene. A Type 1 Management Team has assumed command as of 6:30 a.m. Monday, June 11. Additional ground, air and engines have been ordered.

You can listen to some of the EMS, Fire, and LE personnel who are involved HERE.

Aerials of High Park Fire – Fort Collins, CO

Lory neighborhood / Lory State Park (near Horsetooth Reservoir):

The Republican Party’s “race to the bottom” for the American worker: blame federal employees

Are there, in fact, “too many” federal workers? Look at the numbers below: if there are about six employees for every 1,000 Americans, that works out to one federal employee for every 167 Americans, or one fed responsible for an average of 167 people.

Federal workers under siege

According to a December 2010 report from the Office of Personnel Management, there were approximately 5.4 federal employees per 1,000 Americans in fiscal 2006. Four years later, there were about 5.9 federal workers per 1,000 Americans. The average federal employee salary was $74,311 in September 2010, according to OPM.

The size and pay of the federal workforce is untenable, many Republicans say, in the face of a federal deficit expected to top $1 trillion for the fourth consecutive year.

“We don’t have money,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who chairs a House subcommittee overseeing federal workforce issues. “If we were a business, we would shut down so many segments of our operation that we would put people on the streets.”

“Federal workers are patriotic, they work hard and by and large, do a great job,” added Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who sits on Ross’s panel. “I’m just concerned that there are too many of them. There would be more money to pay for the core of our federal workforce if we didn’t keep adding to the sheer number of federal employees.”

But Democrats, as well as unions representing thousands of federal workers, see it differently. They accuse congressional Republicans of launching an unjustified attack on federal employees — a product, they say, of the anti-government sentiment fueled by the tea party-backed, GOP takeover of the House.

Here’s a thought: if the population of the US continues to increase, doesn’t that mean there are probably more people who need services and programs?

The Republicans like to compare federal wages with private sector wages such as employees at Walmart and also the wages of fast food employees and other minimum-wage type jobs. The GOP would like to see everyone earning Walmart wages (lower the minimum wage!) so that CEO bonuses and corporate profits could be higher, but that’s another argument for another day.

However, since Walmart employee compensation is a favorite for the GOP to compare to federal workers wages / benefits, let’s go ahead and compare the number of employees to “customers” between Walmart and the federal government.

From Walmart’s own “Investor Relations” website, the stated number of employees is 2,000,000 worldwide. Walmart claims to serve 200,000,000 customers each week. Guess how many customers per employee that works out to? 100. So the average Walmart employee handles / services 100 customers each week. That’s 67 less than a federal worker.

Or look at it this way, the population of the United States as of 2011 was 311,591,917. The article and graph above show there are less than 1,900,000 federal employees. You do the math. The average federal worker is responsible for more people than the average Walmart employee — going strictly by the numbers.

So when Rep. Dennis Ross says, “If we were a business, we would shut down so many segments of our operation that we would put people on the streets,” I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about at all. Walmart is the shining example of corporate success — yet they have more employees per customer than the federal government and they’re still going! Of course, we all know how they do it: cheap imports, low wages, no benefits, and generally screwing over their employees. In fact, Walmart actually costs taxpayers $1,557,000,000.

The bottomline is: the federal government isn’t a business. There’s no ‘profit’ to be made, no product to be sold. Yet comparing federal and Walmart employees to the US population and Walmart customers, it appears that the federal government really doesn’t have “too many” workers. The Republican Party’s repeated attempts to demonize all aspects of federal service is shameful — particularly because it’s simply a political maneuver for the benefit of the one percent and corporations.

Federal employees provide for the nation in countless ways. Think about the acreage / mileage covered daily by a law enforcement officer with the Forest Service or the Border Patrol. Or consider the number of Social Security / Medicare applications processed each month or the number of complaints that have to be processed weekly at the FDA by an individual fed. And how many incoming container ships do you suppose are being processed, right now, at all the nation’s ports?

So are there too many feds? If the truth were told, there are probably not enough.

As National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley  says, “While many private-sector entities have taken to eliminating or slashing health insurance and retirement benefits, especially for low-paid employees, our leaders should not support a race to the bottom for working Americans.”  In other words, do we want federal government employees to earn wages and benefits similar to Walmart employees? Or would it be better — for ALL workers — to see Walmart finally pay its employees a fair wage and benefits, and quit costing the US taxpayer so much money SIMPLY so that their CEOs can take home more money?