All The President’s Men

“These guys and gals make ordinary criminals feel squeamish”

By John S. Tully

The New York Herald Sun
October 27 2005

On one of the final episodes of HBO’s remarkable Six Feet Under, a character named Vanessa gently consoles the grieving sister of an Iraqi war veteran who has just committed suicide after losing many limbs. She tells the woman of watching her kids; sleeping; just being. Right then and there it seems to take the woman’s pain and turn it to something beautiful. There’s 2000 dead soldiers, sailors and Marines, thousands more injured for life, and countless dead and injured Iraqis.

It’s just getting to be too much for the American people.

America tortures and kills prisoners of war, lies about its soldiers’ deaths, allows its citizens to starve for days after a hurricane and produces its own news.
Meanwhile the press breaks a collective arm patting itself on the back for its gut-check Katrina coverage.

Too little and too late.

While we’re at war, a cadre of cowards has brazenly robbed the Treasury blind, mortgaging our great-grandchildren’s future as the last five years has been a cash-grab of epic proportions for the fat Republican-only lobbyists in Washington D.C.. As Mr. Bush completely alienated the rest of the free world, the un-free world got more dangerous. The Cowboy President didn’t want to use diplomacy when he could with North Korea so now they want their own reactor. Unfortunately, the intelligence agencies are in shambles, and Donald Rumsfeld’s “lighter, quicker, faster” military is decimated, demoralized and stretched dangerously thin. Meanwhile, China and Japan own much of our debt.

There is still a lack of adequate equipment for our troops on the ground in a war done so completely nearsightedly and on the cheap that families have to send goggles and boots to their children in Iraq and taxpayer-paid mercenaries/private contractors from companies like CACI make four times as much as the enlisted man. Meanwhile, Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown and Root and American oil companies are reaping windfall profits while heating-oil bills double for that widow in Detroit. Up on Capitol Hill, the Republican Senate leader Bill Frist is in serious legal trouble and House leader Tom Delay has now stepped down after being indicted in Texas… twice. The chief purchasing official for the United States of America you ask? Why, he’s just been frog-marched from his office in handcuffs for multiple counts of fraud on the federal government. During a so-called War on Terrorism the Federal Emergency Management chief gets his important job because he is a buddy of the old chief. The criminalization of politics?
These guys and gals make ordinary criminals feel squeamish.

So many troubling occurrences have in fact already gone down the memory hole so far this year that these cold winds of autumn will surely blow more truth away; too many stolen billions, too damn many lives. Somebody in The White House is going to jail for revealing a CIA agent’s identity or lying about it to investigators. The great New York Times helped to sell this war on stories by a reporter named Judith Miller who had sources like a fellow named Curveball, well known by international intelligence agencies to be a fabricator, Jordanian-convicted criminal and American advisor Ahmed Chalabi and the Vice-President’s chief advisor Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Mr. Chalabi was issued an arrest warrant last year by the Iraqi government but now he’s firmly in place again as leader of a Shiite Iraqi coalition. Curveball was last seen fleeing from a prison in Iraq and Ms. Miller went to jail for 89 days for not revealing her source to Independent Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. She was released after reaching a deal and revealed that Mr. Libby was one of her sources for the information about Mr. Wilson’s wife. She claims to have written it in her notes as Valerie Flame.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

This foul mess is greased by a Mainstream Media who butter Americans with a steady
diet of Paula Abdul-Tryst /Brain-Dead Woman /Missing Blond-Girl stories. Lately the press has been hammering home the notion that this leak of a C.I.A. agent’s name is a very complicated story. It’s not but one can understand why, to journalists like Andrea Mitchell and Tim Russert, it must seem complicated, because so many of them are such active participants in the Wink-Wink Washington Game that it completely clouds their judgment. The leak story is simple. It’s about the dirty politics of war.

Between President Bush telling Americans in a State Of The Union speech that Iraq was seeking uranium, and Condoleeza Rice talking that nuclear nonsense about not wanting to wait until we had a “mushroom cloud” in our skies, the deal was sealed to go to war.
In the end, this main reason for invasion, the imminent nuclear threat posed by Saddam and Iraq, was fabricated. Ambassador Joseph Wilson called the administration on this lie and they ruined his wife’s career in the C.I.A for revenge. Mr. Wilson had been sent by the C.I.A. to Niger Africa to see if Iraq had actually tried to get the specialized yellowcake uranium to make a nuclear bomb. He found no evidence of this, neither has anyone else, and he wrote an op-ed piece to this effect. The Bush Administration, in order to punish Mr. Wilson for revealing their big war lie, told some journalists on the White House beat that he had been sent there by his wife, C.I.A. agent Valerie Wilson, who had been undercover for years under the alias of Plame, and was now at headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

They were sure to get some so-called fair journalists like Evan Thomas of Newsweek to backhandedly trash Joseph Wilson’s integrity on John Donald Imus’ program and some politicians to label it simple partisanship. Don’t forget the Drudge/Rush/Freepers, they’re almost as mean and nasty as their heroes in the Oval Office, where wishful thinking and self-delusion rule the day; get in their way and you’ll pay. They’ll turn on anyone who disagrees with them. Ask Richard Clarke, Gen. Shinseki or Paul O’Neill.

Don’t worry, here comes mealy-mouth media-darlings David Brooks and Tom “Pakistani Cabdriver” Friedman to tell us a nice story that will make us feel better.

But now, even the administration’s personal water-carriers are starting to criticize the President over this latest Supreme Court debacle.

The president nominated an unqualified, lightweight, personal friend and advisor Harriet Meirs to the highest court in the nation and the right-wing is absolutely crushed. Like little children who aren’t getting what they thought had been promised, columnists George Will, Bill Kristol and the Republican activists are fuming and furious and beginning to go off-message.

Egads!

Their loyalty to this administration’s consistent and constant shenanigans is finally wearing thin. The very machine that keeps the disinformation going is breaking down.
It’s hard work these days for the White House to cover its tracks and they can’t even blame the Democrats. The first Court crisis began this presidency and this week’s indictments, the Meirs mistake, and the mess in Iraq signals the end.

Leandre Rice, a newly returned soldier from Iraq, came home with a skull fracture, vicious burns all over his body and no more eyesight. He’ll never see his twins born two months ago.

It’s too much for the American people; too many mistakes and too many lies.

As Mr. Libby wrote in a letter to Judy Miller while she was in jail: “It is fall now. … out West, where you vacation, the Aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them..”

Many of the the President’s men are starting to turn and it’s not going to be pretty.

© 2005 THE NEW YORK HERALD SUN

The Darkness Has Come

There are approximately 8.8 billion missing in Iraq; completely unaccounted for

THE DARKNESS HAS COME
BY JOHN TULLY
THE LOS ANGELES SUN
MARCH 25

Last year the oily and corrupt House majority leader, Congressman Tom DeLay, personally used the Department Of Homeland Security to track down and locate members of the Texas State Legislature who had fled to Oklahoma after Mr. DeLay tried to redistrict his home state into illogical shapes that were straight off of a sushi plate.

This week Mr. DeLay subpoenaed a brain-dead woman to Capitol Hill to score political capital from the religious and rigid right, and distract from his vast legal problems, including the illegal use of campaign funds and his current successful attempt to literally change the House’s ethics rules, written in secret.

Texas, of course, is where they execute retarded people and adolescents.

Irving Kristol’s son Bill, the neoconservative dreamer and top propagandist for the Iraq invasion since his co-founding of The Project For A New American Century, had his expert say on Fox News the other day. He claimed that one of the neurologists who had examined Terri Schiavo said: ” She can recover substantially if she gets the proper rehabilitation. ”

It almost makes you long for the days of uninterrupted Atlanta courtroom-killer news and video.

There are approximately $8.8 billion missing in Iraq; completely unaccounted for. The money was entrusted to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. Never one to miss an opportunity for irony, George W. Bush nominated yet another chief architect of the Iraq invasion, Paul Wolfowitz to run The World Bank. That’s a perfect triangle of failure with a secretary of state who did a miserable job advising Bush on National Security and an attorney general who tried to find legal loopholes in torture laws.

A recent document uncovered Halliburton’s newest overcharge of $108 million for Jordanian and Turkish fuel—”The cost data did not reconcile to KBR’s (Halliburton subsidiary) accounting” – and added to countless overcharges totaling close to two billion dollars. Meanwhile, Congress decides to investigate steroid use in professional baseball.

They must not know that Chandra Levy’s killer is still on the loose.

The media swine scoffed and smirked at veteran journalist Dan Rather’s final plea for courage as they ripped apart Michael Jackson for wearing pajamas and blanketed the airwaves with coverage of Martha Stewart. It’s always hard to figure out, week in and week out, who the biggest media weenie is. George Will and David Brooks both could hardly wait to make immediate cheeky/mealy-mouthed references to France in discussing the Syrian mess in Lebanon. Everyone in the cool kids media club was praising Bush for his bold leadership, though almost two months have gone by since the Iraqi election and the many sides are still fighting, and the country is a bloody mess.

Or is it the three-headed liberal weenie, The Evan Thomas/ Howard Fineman/ Chris Matthews Monster with their newest shtick, the just-so-wacky-it-might-work: “George Bush is an idiot-genius who had to lie to America to get us into a war to bring freedom to the Middle East.” Subtitle: “We won’t know for 50 years”

Talk about mission creeps.

In fact, all three men were performing it brilliantly last week, after about 20 minutes of adolescent discussion of Mr. Jackson’s wardrobe and Ms. Stewart’s homecoming, on radio legend Don Imus’ program. That hardly left them any time to discuss the brand-new appointment of America’s chief diplomat to the United Nations, John Bolton.

The little coverage and criticism the media did give the truly absurd nomination usually referred to a bad joke that Bolton had once told about cutting off the top floors of the UN building and it not mattering. But the consistently undiplomatic Bolton once seriously asserted, “We (United States) are the Security Council.” One of the few reporters left in Washington, Mark Shields, remarked that the nomination was “like naming Howard Stern as your chief of protocol or Mary Baker Eddy as your surgeon general.”

Back in the middle of 2003, before Jon Stewart was a big star, Chris Matthews was on The Daily Show and was asked about the presidential election and the long list of Democratic candidates. The war that Mathews had passive-aggressively cheer leaded had not been going well. The questions that he had failed to ask the politicians and leaders about the preparation and planning for the war were coming home to roost. With all his experience in “Wershington” as he calls it in his Pennsylvanian drawl, working for the late, great Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, among others, this would have been a perfect opportunity to educate the young people about the issues on a cool TV show and discuss the politics involved with them.

But Mr. Matthews tried to be hip and irreverent, and summarized the whole field of candidates by giddily telling Stewart that Congressman Dick Gephardt had big eyebrows.

Hilarious.

Tip O’Neill was probably rolling in his grave that summer night. And just about the same time out in Colorado, an old salty dog named Hunter S. Thompson was stewing about the sorry state of affairs in America.

The journalist and author fumed: “It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap war in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of corrupt Brits despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgivable sin in America.

“Beyond that, we have lost the respect of the world and lost two disastrous wars in three years. Afghanistan is lost, Iraq is a permanent war zone, our national economy is crashing all around us, the Pentagon’s ‘war strategy’ has failed miserably, nobody has any money to spend, and our once-mighty U.S. America is paralyzed by mutinies in Iraq and even Fort Bragg.

“The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse. I am surprised and embarrassed to be a part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came into it. Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world. The stock market will never come back, our armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.”

He ended his diatribe by declaring “Big Darkness Come Soon”

The day after Thompson killed himself, the beat-up, piled-upon and tired-looking Mr. Rather declared simply and dramatically: “Gonzo is dead”

This fact was immediately evident upon watching the cable news channels.

CNN’s Judy Woodruff introduced two young women at computers who were reading weblogs to gauge the reaction to the sad news. One of the women stated that Thompson had basically pioneered the practice of Gonzo Journalism. Don Imus’ producer stooge Bernard McGuirk and sports stooge Sid Rosenberg just could not, for the life of them, figure out what all the fuss was about regarding Thompson’s death. “What did he ‘eva do?” chortled the pool-ball headed producer. “Who is this guy?” laughed Mr. Rosenberg.

But their questions would soon be answered by the newsbunnies at MSNBC who were broadcasting Live from the Studio with In-Depth coverage of the top story: The darkness had indeed come.

©2005 NY HERALD SUN

10 DVDs Glenn Beck Doesn’t Want You To See

10 DVDs Glenn Beck Doesn’t Want You To See

Hell ~ 15 More Dead Americans in Iraq/Afghanistan: This Week | 78 Iraqi Citizens: Iraq Body Count

Service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan:
US Army SPC Ryan J Grady, 25, Bristow, OK
US Air Force Capt David A Wisniewski, 31, Moville, IA
US Army SGT Louis R Fastuca, 24, West Chester, PA
US Army SPC Clayton D McGarrah, 20, Harrison, AR
US Army PFC David Jefferson, 23, Philadelphia, PA
US Army SGT Jordan E Tuttle, 22, West Monroe, LA
US Army PFC Edwin C Wood, 18, Omaha, NE
US Army SSG Christopher F Cabacoy, 30, Virginia Beach, VA
US Army SGT Andrew J Creighton, 23, Laurel, DE
US Army PFC Jacob A Dennis, 22, Powder Springs, GA
US Army SPC Keenan A Cooper, 19, Wahpeton, ND
US Army SPC Jerod H Osborne, 20, Royse City, TX
US Army SSG Marc A Arizmendez, 30, Anaheim, CA
US Army SPC Roger Lee, 26, Monterey, CA
US Army PFC Michael S Pridham, 19, Louisville, KY

h/t  NICOLE BELLE
Crooks and Liars

"More Rickety Oil Rigs" ~ Real Time With Bill Maher

This was an all-around good episode with the likes of Katrina vanden Heuval, Andrew Sullivan, Van Jones and Paul Begala. Obama’s response to BP is debated and poor Sully seems to have fallen out of love with Israel.
Maher is quick to point out misinformation about Hamas and the two-state solution and Judd Apatow is very nervous…

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

State Dept. Extends Blackwater Contract in Iraq

Raw Story

green-hard-hats-infinity-photo

By Stephen C. Webster

Published: September 2, 2009

The mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater International, which was banned from Iraq by its government after a Baghdad massacre which killed 17 civilians, will see its contract extended in the country by the U.S. State Department, according to a published report.

ABC News reporter Kirit Radia notes: “Sources say the department has agreed to temporarily continue using the subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees around Iraq until a new contract with another security company, Dyncorp International, is fully implemented. Presidential Airways is an arm of U.S. Training Center, which is a subsidiary of the company Xe, formerly and still commonly known as Blackwater.”

Controversy has surrounded the private security firm practically since it was founded, but erupted anew recently when former employees accused Blackwater’s founder and former CEO of murdering or facilitating the murders of other employees who were preparing to blow the whistle on his alleged criminal activities.

The sworn statements also say that founder Erik Prince and Blackwater executives were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and had, on numerous occasions, ordered incriminating documents, e-mails, photos and video destroyed. The former employees described Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”

One of the statements also charges that “Prince’s North Carolina operations had an ongoing wife-swapping and sex ring, which was participated in by many of Mr. Prince’s top executives.”

The former employees additionally claim that Prince was engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion, that he created “a web of companies in order to obscure wrong-doing, fraud, and other crimes,” and that Blackwater’s chief financial officer had “resigned … stating he was not willing to go to jail for Erik Prince.”

The company was also allegedly involved in the planning stages of the CIA’s assassination program, which was reportedly never used, then scrapped by CIA chief Leon Panetta.

Prince has repeatedly insisted his company has done nothing wrong and Blackwater continues to fulfill its contracts with the United States government.

For the massacre of Iraqi civilians, five Blackwater guards were arrested and charged with manslaughter. A sixth guard flipped and agreed to testify against the others. Government informants later claimed the company tried to gather up and destroy weapons involved in the slaughter.

The State Department announced last January that it would not be renewing Blackwater’s contract for security services in Iraq when it was set to expire in May, however the Obama administration decided to extend it through Sept. 3, according to The Nation Jeremy Scahill.

ABC reported the new contract extension is for an unspecified amount of time and could end “within weeks or months.”

When it is finally allowed to expire, Blackwater’s involvement with Iraq will have ended, completely.

Contractors Outnumber U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

September 2, 2009
6a00d8341cc90353ef0115704e7f72970c

New York Times

Civilian contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan not only outnumber the uniformed troops, according to a report by a Congressional research group, but also form the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States.

On a superficial level, the shift means that most of those representing the United States in the war will be wearing the scruffy cargo pants, polo shirts, baseball caps and other casual accouterments favored by overseas contractors rather than the fatigues and flight suits of the military.

More fundamentally, the contractors who are a majority of the force in what has become the most important American enterprise abroad are subject to lines of authority that are less clear-cut than they are for their military colleagues.

What is clear, the report says, is that when contractors for the Pentagon or other agencies are not properly managed — as when civilian interrogators committed abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq or members of the security firm Blackwater shot and killed 17 Iraqi citizens in Baghdad — the American effort can be severely undermined.

As of March this year, contractors made up 57 percent of the Pentagon’s force in Afghanistan, and if the figure is averaged over the past two years, it is 65 percent, according to the report by the Congressional Research Service.

The contractors — many of them Afghans — handle a variety of jobs, including cooking for the troops, serving as interpreters and even providing security, the report says.

The report says the reliance on contractors has grown steadily, with just a small percentage of contractors serving the Pentagon in World War I, but then growing to nearly a third of the total force in the Korean War and about half in the Balkans and Iraq. The change, the report says, has gradually forced the American military to adapt to a far less regimented and, in many ways, less accountable force.

The growing dependence on contractors is partly because the military has lost some of its logistics and support capacity, especially since the end of the cold war, according to the report. Some of the contractors have skills in critical areas like languages and digital technologies that the military needs.

The issue of the role of contractors in war has been a subject of renewed debate in Washington in recent weeks with disclosures that the Central Intelligence Agency used the company formerly known as Blackwater to help with a covert program, now canceled, to assassinate leaders of Al Qaeda. Lawmakers have demanded to know why such work was outsourced.

The State Department also uses contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, although both the department and the C.I.A. have said they want to reduce their dependence on outside workers.

Responding to the Congressional research report, Frederick D. Barton, a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said it was highly questionable whether contractors brought the same commitment and willingness to take risks as the men and women of the military or the diplomatic services.

He also questioned whether using contractors was cost effective, saying that no one really knew whether having a force made up mainly of contractors whose salaries were often triple or quadruple those of a corresponding soldier or Marine was cheaper or more expensive for the American taxpayer.

With contractors focused on preserving profits and filing paperwork with government auditors, he said, “you grow the part of government that, probably, the taxpayers appreciate least.”

Congress appropriated at least $106 billion for Pentagon contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 through the first half of the 2008 fiscal year, the report says.

The report said the combined forces in Iraq and Afghanistan still had more uniformed military personnel than contractors over all: 242,657 contractors and about 282,000 troops as of March 31

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Accused of Murder in Court by Former Marine and Employee

Jeremy Scahill

THE NATION

blackwater-001

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.These allegations, and a series of other charges, are contained in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury, filed late at night on August 3 in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of a seventy-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct. Susan Burke, a private attorney working in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, is suing Blackwater in five separate civil cases filed in the Washington, DC, area. They were recently consolidated before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia for pretrial motions. Burke filed the August 3 motion in response to Blackwater’s motion to dismiss the case. Blackwater asserts that Prince and the company are innocent of any wrongdoing and that they were professionally performing their duties on behalf of their employer, the US State Department.

A hearing before Judge Ellis in the civil cases against Blackwater is scheduled for August 7.

The former employee, identified in the court documents as “John Doe #2,” is a former member of Blackwater’s management team, according to a source close to the case. Doe #2 alleges in a sworn declaration that, based on information provided to him by former colleagues, “it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct.” John Doe #2 says he worked at Blackwater for four years; his identity is concealed in the sworn declaration because he “fear[s] violence against me in retaliation for submitting this Declaration.” He also alleges, “On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince’s employ, Mr. Prince’s management has personally threatened me with death and violence.” Continue reading Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Accused of Murder in Court by Former Marine and Employee

We are the most powerful nation in the world. There is no excuse, only corruption.

We are the most powerful nation in the world. There is no excuse, only corruption.

Sneaky George W. Bush Pushing Through Dozens of Last-Minute Legislative Scams

THE OBSERVER

PAUL HARRIS

DEC 14 2008

chinatown110ec

After spending eight years at the helm of one of the most ideologically driven administrations in American history, George W. Bush is ending his presidency in characteristically aggressive fashion, with a swath of controversial measures designed to reward supporters and enrage opponents.

By the time he vacates the White House, he will have issued a record number of so-called ‘midnight regulations’ – so called because of the stealthy way they appear on the rule books – to undermine the administration of Barack Obama, many of which could take years to undo.

Dozens of new rules have already been introduced which critics say will diminish worker safety, pollute the environment, promote gun use and curtail abortion rights. Many rules promote the interests of large industries, such as coal mining or energy, which have energetically supported Bush during his two terms as president. More are expected this week.

America’s attention is focused on the fate of the beleaguered car industry, still seeking backing in Washington for a multi-billion-dollar bail-out. But behind the scenes, the ‘midnight’ rules are being rushed through with little fanfare and minimal media attention. None of them would be likely to appeal to the incoming Obama team.

The regulations cover a vast policy area, ranging from healthcare to car safety to civil liberties. Many are focused on the environment and seek to ease regulations that limit pollution or restrict harmful industrial practices, such as dumping strip-mining waste.

The Bush moves have outraged many watchdog groups. ‘The regulations we have seen so far have been pretty bad,’ said Matt Madia, a regulatory policy analyst at OMB Watch. ‘The effects of all this are going to be severe.’

Bush can pass the rules because of a loophole in US law allowing him to put last-minute regulations into the Code of Federal Regulations, rules that have the same force as law. He can carry out many of his political aims without needing to force new laws through Congress. Outgoing presidents often use the loophole in their last weeks in office, but Bush has done this far more than Bill Clinton or his father, George Bush sr. He is on track to issue more ‘midnight regulations’ than any other previous president.

Many of these are radical and appear to pay off big business allies of the Republican party. One rule will make it easier for coal companies to dump debris from strip mining into valleys and streams. The process is part of an environmentally damaging technique known as ‘mountain-top removal mining’. It involves literally removing the top of a mountain to excavate a coal seam and pouring the debris into a valley, which is then filled up with rock. The new rule will make that dumping easier.

Another midnight regulation will allow power companies to build coal-fired power stations nearer to national parks. Yet another regulation will allow coal-fired stations to increase their emissions without installing new anti-pollution equipment.

The Environmental Defence Fund has called the moves a ‘fire sale of epic size for coal’. Other environmental groups agree. ‘The only motivation for some of these rules is to benefit the business interests that the Bush administration has served,’ said Ed Hopkins, a director of environmental quality at the Sierra Club. A case in point would seem to be a rule that opens up millions of acres of land to oil shale extraction, which environmental groups say is highly pollutant.

There is a long list of other new regulations that have gone onto the books. One lengthens the number of hours that truck drivers can drive without rest. Another surrenders government control of rerouting the rail transport of hazardous materials around densely populated areas and gives it to the rail companies.

One more chips away at the protection of endangered species. Gun control is also weakened by allowing loaded and concealed guns to be carried in national parks. Abortion rights are hit by allowing healthcare workers to cite religious or moral grounds for opting out of carrying out certain medical procedures.

A common theme is shifting regulation of industry from government to the industries themselves, essentially promoting self-regulation. One rule transfers assessment of the impact of ocean-fishing away from federal inspectors to advisory groups linked to the fishing industry. Another allows factory farms to self-regulate disposal of pollutant run-off.

The White House denies it is sabotaging the new administration. It says many of the moves have been openly flagged for months. The spate of rules is going to be hard for Obama to quickly overcome. By issuing them early in the ‘lame duck’ period of office, the Bush administration has mostly dodged 30- or 60-day time limits that would have made undoing them relatively straightforward.

Obama’s team will have to go through a more lengthy process of reversing them, as it is forced to open them to a period of public consulting. That means that undoing the damage could take months or even years, especially if corporations go to the courts to prevent changes.

At the same time, the Obama team will have a huge agenda on its plate as it inherits the economic crisis. Nevertheless, anti-midnight regulation groups are lobbying Obama’s transition team to make sure Bush’s new rules are changed as soon as possible. ‘They are aware of this. The transition team has a list of things they want to undo,’ said Madia.