Sarah Jean Seman - Capitol Source: the D.C. Marijuana Debate
Posted: 1/26/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

D.C. Councilman David Grosso (I) has vowed to confront Congress about an issue his city voted overwhelmingly in favor of—marijuana legalization in Washington D.C. 

Last November 70 percent of Washington D.C. residents voted to approve recreational marijuana in the nation's capital. Their support, however, held little meaning. While D.C. may sport a mayor, an elected city council, and even have its fair share of ballots and measures, the District is ultimately controlled by the federal government. 

Only one month after approving the measure, Congress banned all taxpayer funds from being used towards cannabis legalization. Without the means to create a regulated marketplace the city's hands are tied.

If Grosso's legislation passes, it would make marijuana taxation and sales legal in the District. 

But why is Congress against regulating drugs? In today's "Capitol Source," we hear from advocates on either side of the marijuana debate as they discuss the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. 

Katie Pavlich - Man's Best Friend: Service Dogs of SHOT Show
Posted: 1/26/2015 7:55:00 AM EST

Every year 60,000 people attend the annual National Shooting Sports Foundation SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Many of those people are veterans and when I was there last week, I noticed a number of service dogs also in attendance at the show. 

As Leah has extensively documented through her writing, dogs not only play an essential role in military operations overseas, they are crucial in helping veterans at home recovering from PTSD and other issues after returning from combat. In fact, A&E just launched a new reality series about man's best friend called "Dogs of War."

Canines aren't a cure for PTSD, of course, but Sarge and other service dogs can be trained to help veterans suffering from anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and night terrors. However, it's the emotional support and unconditional love the furry companions provide that's perhaps the greatest way they help veterans move on with their lives.

"We as individuals, we take a lot of things for granted." Jim explained. "Whether it’s going out to dinner, going to a baseball game with your kids, [or] getting involved with the family ... it’s very difficult for a veteran dealing with PTSD and a brain injury to partake in that stuff because we want to isolate, we don’t want to socialize."

"[But] now you’ve got your battle buddy with you, your service dog that gets to run with you everywhere you go," he continued, "and get you back in and live the life you deserve to live."

Here are some of the buddies I ran into at the SHOT Show last week. 

1. This is "Wilson the PTSD saver." He was pretty tired near the end of the week, after all, there were 12.5 miles of aisles to walk through. 

2. This St. Bernard can tell when his owner is about to have a seizure and lets him know ahead of time so he can take the necessary precautions. 

3. This guy is a "helping paws" service dog. 

4. This helpful canine is part of the Warrior Dog Foundation. 

One of the best parts of SHOT Show is seeing and meeting veterans. We thank them for their service.

Katie Pavlich - Federal Judge Accuses DOJ Attorneys of Defrauding The Court, Threatening Witness in Case of ATF Whistleblower Jay Dobyns
Posted: 1/26/2015 7:15:00 AM EST

Late last week reporter Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson published a piece about alleged serious misconduct and intimidation from DOJ attorneys during the trial and lawsuit of former ATF agent and whistleblower Jay Dobyns against the government. 

One of the recently unsealed documents, a Dec. 1 opinion by Judge Allegra, finally explains why in October the judge voided his original decision, made in August, to award Dobyns $173,000. (He later reversed his decision to void the judgment, which still stands.) The reason: The judge believed that Justice Department attorneys had “committed fraud on the court.”

One area in which Allegra decided deception had occurred was in the treatment of Thomas Atteberry, the special agent in charge of ATF’s Phoenix office, and Carlos Canino, then the assistant special agent in charge of the agency’s Tucson office. In 2012, a Justice Department attorney, Valerie Bacon, asked both Atteberry and Canino not to reopen the investigation into the arson at Dobyns’ Tucson home because it could hurt the Justice Department’s defense in this case.

Atteberry and Canino were listed as witnesses in the case, but the judge didn’t hear about the DOJ effort to squelch the investigation until the trial, which he considered a concealment by the Justice Department. They went ahead and reopened the case, which remains unsolved, anyway.

More alarming was the other “fraud on the court” that Allegra cited: “An ATF agent who testified in this case may have been threatened by another witness during the trial.” Justice Department attorneys ordered the agent not to report the threat to the court or he would face repercussions, Allegra said.

As a refresher, Dobyns is the first law enforcement agent to ever successfully infiltrate multiple layers of the notoriously dangerous and violent Hells Angels motorcycle gang through "Operation Black Biscuit." After doing so and after his identity was exposed, he received death threats against himself and his family. ATF did nothing to protect him. When his house was burned to the ground at 3 a.m., ATF supervisors tried to frame him for the arson after Dobyns blew the whistle and exposed supervisors had done nothing to address serious and credible threats against his family. (You can read a detailed account of the situation here). As a result, Dobyns sued the Bureau.

In August 2014 that lawsuit and trial came to an end with Federal Judge Francis Allegra ruling in Dobyns' favor and awarding him $173,000 in damages. 

After a long six year court battle with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Special Agent and whistleblower Jay Dobyns says he as been vindicated after Federal Judge Francis Allegra ruled in his favor late Tuesday. Dobyns, who infiltrated the dangerous and deadly Hells Angels gang as an undercover agent years ago, brought a lawsuit against the Bureau after supervisors ignored death threats to his family, which included plans to murder him either with a bullet or by injecting him with the AIDS virus, kidnapping and torturing his then 15-year-old daughter and kidnapping his wife in order to videotape a gang rape of her. Contracts were solicited between the Hells Angels, the Aryan Brotherhood and the MS-13 gang to carry out these threats, which were laid out in prison letters and confirmed through FBI and ATF interviews of confidential informants inside numerous detention centers. In 2008, his Tucson home was burned to the ground. When the fire was started, his wife and children were inside. Luckily, they escaped. Instead of investigating, ATF supervisors accused Dobyns of being the arsonist.

"I have been vindicated. First, I must thank God who provided me with strength and faith during these events. I thank those who have supported me; family, friends, peers and strangers but mostly my wife and kids – they have been the true victims here and been forced to suffer too needlessly," Dobyns wrote about the ruling on his website, where he released the news. "An agency I spilled my own blood for and enthusiastically accepted every dirty assignment on behalf of for twenty-seven years, knowingly and intentionally accused me of a crime I did not commit; being a person who would murder his own wife and children by fire."

In his opinion, Allegra said ATF exhibited "organizational weaknesses," in handling the threats against Dobyns and described ATF officials as demonstrating misfeasance in the case "rooted in the sorry failure of some ATF officials."

“The violations occurred because of the way officials like ASAC Gillett and RAC Higman functioned – and were allowed to function – after the arson, especially in terms of how Agent Dobyns was treated”; “In the courts view, the evidence showed that ASAC Gillett and Agent Higman knew that Agent Dobyns was not responsible for the fire, and still allowed him to be treated as a suspect as a form of payback. Moreover, ATF officials knew, or should have known, that individuals like ASAC Gillett and Agent Higman should not have been allowed to participate in the investigation – as it turned out their conduct was not only reprehensible, but predictably so. In donning blinders in this regard, ATF officials compounded potential harm that might have befallen the Dobyns family,” the opinion states.

It seems that this apparent misconduct by the DOJ attorneys is what led Allegra to make a dramatic ruling on Oct. 24. That day, he barred seven Justice Department attorneys who had led the case until then from making any further filings in the case. The DOJ is fighting that ruling.

Shortly after the ruling, Allegra withdrew his opinion without explanation, now we know why. Court documents show DOJ attorneys allegedly intimidated a key witness in Dobyns' case against the government, threatening that if he testified, his career at would be over. 

“On October 29, 2014, the court, invoking RCFC 60(b) and other provisions, issued an order voiding the prior judgment based upon indications that defendant, through its counsel, had committed fraud on the court," Allegra wrote in an unsealed opinion from December 2014. "The Sixth Circuit has indicated that fraud on the court consists of conduct: 1. On the part of an officer of the court; 2. That is directed to the ‘judicial machinery’ itself; 3. That is intentionally false, willfully blind to the truth, or is in reckless disregard for the truth; 4. That is a positive averment or is concealment when one is under a duty to disclose; 5. That deceives the court."

After the opinion was issued, ATF's lead internal affairs investigator Christopher Trainor, a key witness in the Dobyns' case who testified at the Tucson and Washington D.C. portions of the trial, told Judge Allegra he had been threatened by a DOJ attorney and witness for the government, Charles Higman, in 2013 for his work in compiling evidence against ATF in the case. An internal criminal investigation was opened against Higman in 2013 after Trainor's allegations and Higman was accused of perjury in Allegra's August 2014 opinion, which was withdrawn after new revelations.

According to a letter to Judge Allegra from the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility, OPR has "received multiple inquiries regarding whether the Federal Circuit's December 18, 2014 Order remanding the case of Jay A. Dobyns v. United States, No. 08-700C (FMA), to the Court of Federal Claims for further proceedings will affect the inquiry recently initiated by OPR into allegations that Department of Justice attorneys committed misconduct in the Dobyns case," and "the court will order depositions of at least some of the attorneys and other witnesses in this case, as well as the receipt of other relevant evidence."

Further, DOJ has allegedly been intimidating and conducting harassing surveillance of Dobyns' attorney Jim Reed. More from Steller:

Perhaps the most bizarre and worrisome allegations emerged in Reed’s Jan. 11 filing, which was originally filed under seal but unsealed by the judge except for a few redacted words. Reed, who is based in Phoenix, wrote that he “has felt himself under extreme surveillance for the last sixty days, both fixed and moving, and under lesser levels of surveillance for many months before that.”

“In the last 30 days,” Reed wrote, “counsel’s automobile has been broken into but with nothing stolen, as apparently has been his home, for which counsel has filed Phoenix Police Department complaints.”

DOJ is standing by it's attorneys as "outstanding civil servants." Attorney General Eric Holder has been informed by Allegra of the alleged defrauding of the court by DOJ attorneys. 

"I said all along they were cheating. Everyone was like, "sour grapes, disgruntled agent, whiny narcissist, etc." Just a fraction of the dirty games ATF and DOJ played on me are coming out. Reporters are finding it all on their own with no prompting from me (below). This is only the portion of what Judge Allegra has unsealed and allowed to be exposed. More and better dirt on these people is coming. The evidence of abuse from the trial? That's old news and minor compared to DOJ / ATF attorneys and witnesses defrauding federal courtrooms and judges. Jones and Brandon knew/know about this and did NOTHING, yet they call themselves "leaders". They are executive bagboys. DOJ is defending the reputations and careers of corrupt attorneys - the very same attorneys who tried to frame me and lied, cheated and stole to do it. They are all paid to cover for Holder and his "team" and do so shamelessly. Justice and truth are not their missions. Coverup and self protection is. To them "Justice" and "Truth" are meaningless words carved in the facades of their buildings. This is the tip of the iceberg of what is yet to come," Dobyns wrote on his website about the revelations. "I can only make one guarantee. Its not of victory. Its that I will not quit and will not be broken."

The House Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committees both have new chairmen, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Chuck Grassley, who should both be looking into this is and demanding answers, especially with confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch later this week.

David Codrea has also written a piece about these revelations that's worth reading.

Christine Rousselle - CDC, NASA Have Highest Favorability Ratings of Federal Agencies
Posted: 1/25/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, Americans have little trust in the government as a whole, but have high favorability ratings for several individual agencies. Seventy percent surveyed approve of the Centers for Disease Control, and 68 percent approve of the job done by NASA. The IRS and the NSA had the lowest favorability ratings, with 45 and 51 percent, respectively, having a favorable view of those agencies.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 7-11 among 1,504 adults, finds that 70% have a favorable view of the CDC, which came under criticism last fall for its handling of the outbreak of the Ebola virus. Nearly as many (68%) have a favorable view of NASA, and 65% hold a favorable view of the Department of Defense.

While overall favorable ratings for most of the agencies tested have changed little over time, there has been a sharp decline in positive views of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Currently, 52% have a favorable view of the VA, down 16 points since October 2013. The agency has been widely faulted for delays in health care for veterans; the scandal led to the ouster last year of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Among Republicans, the agency viewed most favorably was the Department of Defense, followed by the CIA and NASA. The CIA was the only federal agency that Republicans favored more than Democrats.

While the CDC got a bad rap late last year when the Ebola virus was discovered in Dallas, there has been no major outbreak of the disease and the agency did its job well containing diagnosed cases, and I'll give them credit for that. NASA has had its budget slashed, yet they've still accomplished some pretty amazing feats and made important discoveries.

Matt Vespa - We’ve Never Been This Close To Armageddon Since 1984
Posted: 1/25/2015 2:55:00 PM EST

We’re now three minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock, which is used to determine how close human civilization is to the apocalypse. This is the closest we’ve ever been to midnight since 1984. The reason is not nuclear war anymore. It’s the threat humanity faces from bioterrorism, climate change, and our lethargic response towards addressing it. But, nuclear weapons still play their part as well (via Slate):

That’s the closest it has been to midnight since 1984, at the Cold War’s peak. The only time humanity has been closer to self-destruction, according to the clock, was from 1953 to 1960, when it read 11:58 p.m. thanks to the nuclear brinksmanship between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War’s end turned the clock all the way back to 11:43 p.m. in 1991. So how did we end up right back at 11:57 p.m., just 24 years later?*

The answer is that nuclear war is no longer the only plausible, existential threat we face, according to the Bulletin’s science and security board. The other: climate change. And, more specifically, the world’s lackluster response to climate change.

As Lawrence Krauss explained in Slate two years ago, climate change was added to the clock-setting calculations in 2007, along with the dangers presented by biotechnology and bioterrorism. Despite ever-growing public awareness of the problem, global inaction on climate change has only darkened the picture since then.

Remember, it isn’t only climate change that has us poised precipitously at 11:57 p.m. today. It’s the combination of climate change and some discouraging recent developments on the nuclear-proliferation front. At a press conference Thursday, Bulletin executive director Kennette Benedict emphasized both. About the nuclear threat, she said:

The arms-reduction process has ground to a halt, with the United States and Russia embarking on massive programs to modernize their nuclear forces—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. At the same time, other nuclear-weapons states are joining this expensive and extremely dangerous modernization craze.

The two threats may seem unrelated, but it’s worthwhile to think about them in the same breath, because there are some interesting parallels between them. The greatest danger posed by nuclear bombs is not their explosive power. It’s the prospect of a nuclear winter—that is, a form of very sudden, human-caused, climate change.

There’s that, and the fact that radiation will kill us all, too. Yet, the Slate piece did note that the Doomsday Clock’s methodology is subjective to the “biases and interests” of the scientists who move the clock handles.

While it’s a bit unnerving that we are so close to the end of the world, I’m still skeptical about climate change being the biggest existential threat humanity has faced in generations.

In other news, Mad Max: Fury Road will be released this summer; a franchise that pretty much became the blueprint for post-apocalyptic media. Here’s the trailer:

Kevin Glass - Ohio Gov. John Kasich's Tour: "Nothing To Do" With 2016
Posted: 1/25/2015 12:09:00 PM EST

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is on tour in the west promoting a constitutional balanced budget amendment - but before you make any presumptions, the former GOP-nomination-chaser says it isn't about 2016.

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Fresh off his inauguration to a second term as governor, Mr. Kasich is travelling from South Dakota to Wyoming to Idaho in a tour that ends Friday. He is trying to round up support for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget — even as fiscal issues seem to be fading in Congress.

Mr. Kasich, who ran briefly for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, says this budget campaign has nothing to do with his thinking about whether to try again in 2016. The tour may help build his national profile in a field crowded with ambitious Republicans, but he deflects questions about his plans.

“My options are on the table but I don’t have any more to say about that,” he said. When someone in Pierre, South Dakota raised the question, he joked about other Republicans who are eyeing a bid: “They are all in New Hampshire and here I am in South Dakota!”

Kasich won re-election in Ohio in 2014 by an impressive margin - more than 30 points - and such a strong showing in a purple state suggests an across-the-aisle appeal that would theoretically be helpful in any national election. Still, he's largely a dark horse in a race that is, to this point, led by household names like Bush and Romney.

Leah Barkoukis - Black Lives Matter: Abortion Killed 19 Times as Many Blacks as Murder
Posted: 1/25/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

After the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protesters took to the streets across the nation declaring that ‘Black Lives Matter.’

It wasn’t a moment, they argued, but a movement.

“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” states. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

They are right: Black lives are intentionally targeted for demise—though not necessarily in the way they are protesting.

CNS News explains:

For every black murder victim in 2011 there were 19 blacks killed by abortion, according to data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 2011 is the latest year for which the data is available.

The CDC’s Abortion Surveillance Report for 2011 shows that 117,293 black babies were aborted that year in the 32 states and the District of Columbia that report abortion numbers to the CDC.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2011, shows that 6,329 blacks were murder victims that year (5,416 males, 910 females, and 3 unknown gender).

In other words, for every black American killed by homicide in 2011, there were 19 (18.5) blacks killed by abortion--and that’s just in the jurisdictions that report their abortion data. (See Table 13 in CDC report.)

Also, the 117,293 aborted babies is 1,753% higher than the 6,329 black murder victims.

Black lives do matter—beginning in the womb. It’s well past time the movement shift its focus.

Matt Vespa - Obama Targets Americans At The Pump
Posted: 1/24/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

Last week, the Obama administration announced it was proposing new rules for methane regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency will unveil the new regulations this summer.

The Obama administration’s goal is for methane emissions to be cut 40 to 45 percent by 2025. Yet, it was unclear how such an objective could be achieved, given that methane escaping from pipelines wouldn’t be subject to regulation, according to Politico. As Erik Telford of the Franklin Center wrote, this regulatory onslaught will only hurt Americans and small businesses; not to mention that the energy industry has taken steps to reduce emissions:

According to the EPA, methane accounts for about 9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, making it the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States. It’s also the primary component in natural gas, which has helped lower energy prices substantially in the U.S. and around the world.

In fact, the boom in natural gas production is a key factor driving down prices at the pump and giving Americans a much needed respite after an extended recession. And experts have predicted that prices will drop even lower--anticipating an average of $2 a gallon by spring of 2015. However, those forecasts may not be accurate if the administration has its way.

The energy industry has reduced methane emissions by at least 16 percent since 1990, despite impressive increases of natural gas production--rising 37 percent during the same period. Furthermore, despite the natural gas industry being the target of the administration’s latest attack, more than 71 percent of methane emission are produced by other sources.

As energy costs increase for small businesses and prices start rising at the pump, it should be very clear to everyday Americans that Obama’s incursion on the energy industry is really an attack on them.

Tom Pyle of the Institute For Energy Research also commented on the pending new rules concerning methane emissions:

“EPA’s proposed methane regulation is redundant, costly, and unnecessary. Energy producers are already reducing methane emissions because methane is a valuable commodity. It would be like issuing regulations forcing ice cream makers to spill less ice cream.

“The Obama administration’s latest attack on American energy reaffirms that their agenda is not about the climate at all—it’s about driving up the cost of producing and using natural gas, oil, and coal in America. The proof is in the EPA’s own research on methane, which shows that this rule will have no discernible impact on the climate. Like most of the regulations coming out of this ideologically driven EPA, the environmental benefits of this new methane rule are virtually non-existent, but the economic costs for American families are very real.

“In 2012 President Obama dismissed and mocked the notion that we could drill our way to lower oil and gasoline prices. He was wrong. Thanks to increases in oil production on private and state lands, Americans are feeling some relief from high energy prices. Today, this administration has issued yet another crushing regulation aimed at driving energy prices right back up again.”

Cortney O'Brien - VA State Bar Kicks Bob McDonnell When He’s Down
Posted: 1/24/2015 3:00:00 PM EST

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) has already suffered the embarrassment of an arrest, a heated court battle, and a two-year sentence in prison as a result of an unethical relationship he and his wife had with a businessman who worked for a drug supplement company. Now, the embattled governor must humble himself once again. On Friday, the Virginia State Bar announced it was suspending McDonnell’s law license. More from The Virginian Pilot:

The Virginia State Bar announced today it has suspended former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s law license effective Jan. 29.

The bar’s Disciplinary Board decided the suspension as a result of McDonnell's conviction on 11 federal corruption charges, according to a public notice. His license was already administratively suspended because McDonnell hasn't paid his dues since mid-October, it said.

The former governor hasn’t practiced law since 2009 and it’s not clear if he would have in the near future, but the suspension is just another stain on his already tarnished reputation.

McDonnell’s fall from grace began when it was revealed that he and his wife had accepted thousands of dollars in gifts and bribes from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the CEO of Star Scientific, in return for promoting his company’s dietary supplement. In September, McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts of corruption. His wife Maureen is facing eight counts for her sentencing on February 20.

When the judge announced McDonnell’s verdict, he did so reluctantly, saying "It breaks my heart, but I have a duty I can't avoid." After all, the former governor served the Old Dominion well during his time in office and was once even considered a contender for the 2016 presidential race. 

There’s something even more humbling about being behind bars. After McDonnell serves his time, perhaps he will start to earn back some respect and dignity. Staff - Sarah Palin: I'm "Seriously Interested" in a White House Run
Posted: 1/24/2015 2:30:00 PM EST


Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told The Washington Post in an interview Friday that she is “seriously interested” in running for the White House in 2016.

“You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested,” Palin said, when asked to clarify her thinking about a possible presidential bid.

Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, said she stood by comments she made Thursday in Las Vegas to ABC News, where she first expressed enthusiasm about potentially competing for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I am. As I said yesterday, I’m really interested in the opportunity to serve at some point,” Palin said Friday, as former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a potential 2016 rival, looked on.

Exit question: Should Sarah Palin run for president in 2016? Or should she sit this one out and serve the nation in other ways?