Eric Cantor, Greater Richmond's Golden Boy of politics, is flying very close to the sun these days as he plays a dangerous game of chicken in budget negotiations that could have disastrous economic consequences.
Cantor is trying to run to the head of the Tea Party parade and scuttle any negotated budget deal between his own Republicans and Barack Obama. Not only did he storm out of a meeting with the president, he's seriously annoying the leadership of his own party, including Speaker of the Hosue John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, both of whom have tried to come up with a budget compromise before the Aug. 3 deadline for raising the fedeal debt limit.
Cantor is stubbornly insisting on much broader government spending cuts before the Republican House of Representatives would vote for a budget bill. His goal seems to be to position himself tightly with the Tea Party members who shunned him in last November's elections as a Main Street business toady.
Problem is that Boy Wonder is displaying some disturbing character flaws, such as his condescending tendency to curl his upper lip in the Cantor Snarl while spitting out statements such as "Obama's thinking is unfathomable to me," according to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank.
Cantor's arrogance is pissing off people like Boehner who ranks one step ahead of Cantor in the Republican Congressional hierarchy. Even some leading GOPers wonder how Cantor managed to project himself into such a position while acting like a spoiled child. "He doesn't deserve a place at the table," one top Republican said. McConnell says Cantor's tactis are stupid because he's making the Republicans take ownership of Obama's handling of the economy.
That, by the way, is nothing to screw around with at the moment. Job growth in May and June was next to nothing. Rating agencies such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's stand ready to downgrade U.S. credit if the debt ceiling isn't raised, as it has been a number of times over the past several decades. Raising it has been linked to a budget deal. There's a very real chance of a U.S. default on its debts. A new recession would follow.
Instead of statesmanship, we're now getting snotty snarls from Cantor, who was raised in such a sheltered and privileged environment as Richmond's Collegiate School that oozes entitlement and provincial power. Cantor never had to be humble here at home. He always got glowing, uncritical coverage from the Richmond Times Dispatch. His wife is on the board of Media General which owns the paper.
Cantor's quote in his Collegiate yearbook was "I want what I want when I want it." That is the epitath of a spoiled rich kid. Too bad the stakes are so high and his vision is so narrow. We will be the ones paying the price.
Virginia Uranium Inc., a tiny Chatham-based firm that wants to mine uranium in south central Virginia near Gretna, is flying more than a dozen state legislators to France to drum up momentum to end the state's ban on uranium mining in next year's General Assembly.
The lobbying effort includes all-expenses paid and three days off in Paris so the legislators can visit a closed uranium mine in the city of Bessines in western France where uranium was extracted for a half a century before shutting down in the late 1990s.
Virginia Uranium's chutzpah is stunning. The four-year-old firm, led by a former Army and Foreign Service officer with no experience in the nuclear industry, had invited all 140 state legislators and most wisely declined. Legislators taking the trip this week include L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax), Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton), and Del. William R. Janis (R- Goochland.) Sickles told The Washington Post that he is paying his own airfare and lodging.
The pitch, in a word, stinks. If state legislators want to educate themselves about uranium mining, that's commendable. But signing up for $10,000 or more in free travel expenses, although allowable under Virginia law, raises big questions about their integrity.
Virginia Uranium raises questions, too. Walter Coles, whose family owns Coles Hill, a uranium-rich farm dating back to the 18th century, runs the company with another local family represented by Henry Bowen of Sehva. The properties they own near Gretna and Chatham could have 110 million pounds of uranium.
It isn't the first time that companies have sought the Coles uranium tract. Marline Uranium Corp., a subsidiary of Marline Oil Company, started exploring the Coles property in 1977, announced a big uranium find in 1982 after drilling 210 holes. Yet the plan was stymied by uncertainties about the global uranium market and strong opposition from environmental groups. Cities in Hampton Roads also raised pointed questions because they get much of their drinking water from big lakes just downstream of the property.
Coles and his team have no experience in either the nuclear industry or minerals mining. A graduate of Fork Union Military Academy and the Citadel, Coles worked for a furniture company before serving with the Army in Vietnam. He later spent 30 years working for the U.S. Agency for International Development specializing in privatization and land reform programs for the State Department. None of the other members of Virginia Uranium's board has any mining or nuclear experience either. Most are lawyers or investment bankers.
The firm raised $2.38 million of a targeted $4 million in equity financing earlier this year, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. That was just a few weeks before a tsunami inundated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
The disaster raised questions about the future of global nuclear power and the need for uranium. Germany, for instance, has announced that it will be shutting down all of its commercial nuclear power stations within a decade or so.
Add it all up and one wonders what is going on down in Chatham, or for that matter, in the bars and restaurants and hotel rooms of Paris.
Guess which giant American corporation stands to rake in dough by grabbing branding related to SEAL Team 6, the Navy commando unit based in Virginia Beach that killed Osama Bin Laden?
Disney. Surprised? You shouldn't be.
It isn't the first time that the California company that brought us Mickey Mouse has tried to profit from tragic historical events. In the early 1990s, they tried to build a $650 million theme park near the Civil War battlefield near Manassas that would have dishonored war dead. Only strong opposition from civic and environmental groups stopped them.
Now, Disney has filed for three trademark applications to claim rights to the phrase "SEAL Team 6." These would cover "entertainment and education services, toys, games and playthings" and "clothing, footwear and headwear."
SEAL Team 6 is a special unit of the Navy SEALs that is based at Dam Neck in Virginia Beach and is tasked with handling anti-terrorist operations. The team has seen extensive combat in Iraq and Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. Its members are credited with assaulting bin Laden's stronghold in Pakistan and killing him.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's first year. Historian Ed Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, shared his thoughts on the war and its legacy in Richmond in this week's cover story (click here). I continued that discussion with him Monday morning when I filled in for Jimmy Barrett as guest host on “Richmond's Morning News,” on 1140-AM WRVA. Click here to hear Ayers' thoughts on Richmond's opportunities in the Civil War's anniversary.
If you tuned into the Super Bowl on Sunday for the ads as well as the game, you'll want to hear what John Norman had to say about the winners and losers. Norman is the new chief creative officer of the Martin Agency, and helped create one of the Super Bowl's most acclaimed commercials, Coke's “Happiness Factory” (watch it below).
And Marcus Messner of the VCU School of Mass Communications discussed the journalist assaults and media lockout during the riots in Egypt. (Speaking of, Messner is set to moderate a discussion with CNN's Anderson Cooper at the Richmond Forum on Feb. 19-20. I'm giving away two tickets to the Sunday matinee on the 20th to a lucky reader of The Scoop, my weekly e-mail newsletter.
Tomorrow is my second day filling in on WRVA's morning news show (1140-AM) and we'll be discussing synthetic marijuana, economic segregation in Richmond Public Schools and the hottest arts events coming up this season. Plus, the woman at the center of the City Hall sexual harrassement controversy, Jennifer Walle will stop by for an interview. That along with the latest local news, traffic, weather, sports and more, from 5-9 a.m.
You can hear it at 1140-AM, or streaming live over the Internet at WRVA.com. Or, if you have the iHeartRadio app, you can tune in using your iPhone.
News Editor Scott Bass is back from U.S. District Court, where Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride have announced details of the plea deal with developer Justin French.
French faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, restitution, a fine up to $500,000 and three years of supervised release, according to the attorneys' offices. Sentencing is scheduled for May 3.
Style will have details to follow online and in this week's issue. Here are more details released by Cuccinelli and MacBride:
Will Richmond's absentee ballots make a difference tonight? They could, considering Delegate Dwight Jones and Councilman Bill Pantele were separated by only 500 votes in the crucial District 3, with 78 percent of the precinct reporting.
NBC 12 reports there are about 12,000 absentee ballots. Our sources tell us it's likely they'll be counted in the next hour.