Just saying no. Although it is now legal to grow marijuana in Colorado, and businesses are creating sophisticated and extensive growing operations, they must finance them outside the U.S. banking system. Banks have determined that the marijuana business, though legal, is not moral and ethical, and that doing business with the growers could hurt their brands. At first glance, this sounds like a laudable decision. But upon reflection, it raises an interesting question: If an activity is legal, should infrastructure service companies such as banking, internet, and electricity companies have the right to refuse service? Could this “right” to refuse banking services ultimately affect Christian organizations?
Tarnished Globes. The Golden Globes awards program was a very mixed bag on Sunday evening. Not only did it have too many raunchy and politically correct moments, the television programs, movies, and individuals the awards honored were themselves of questionable, well, honor. Wolf of Wall Street star Leonardo DiCaprio won for best actor in a comedy, though it’s hard to find anything truly funny about a movie that broke the Scarface record for most f-bombs in a movie: more than 500. The movie’s director, Martin Scorcese, (who I’ll admit is brilliant) maintains unconvincingly that the movie is not a celebration of debauchery, but actually a morality play. But if those involved in the film were so concerned with morality, they had a funny (and I don’t mean ha-ha funny) way of showing it. Woody Allen, who is as undeniably great as a filmmaker as he is troubled as a human being, won the Cecil B. DeMille Award. The award was controversial because of his past indiscretions (if that is the right word). It does raise the interesting question of how bad people sometimes make great art, and good people often make really bad art. But that, as they say, is a question for another day.
Venezuela increasingly unstable. Venezuela has become one of the Western Hemisphere’s problem countries. Early last year, Venezuela expelled U.S. diplomats. Inflation continues to rise and is now projected to be nearly 50 percent. Last week, a former Miss Venezuela and her husband were murdered while they waited for a tow truck after their car broke down. The case highlighted the country’s homicide rate, among the highest in the world. (In 2009, the rate was 57 murders per 100,000 residents. New York City, by way of comparison, has four homicides per 100,000.) Venezuela is next door to narcotics-troubled Columbia, and is rich in oil. It’s a volatile mix that has led to corruption that threatens to spill over into neighboring countries and beyond.
Christie’s mea culpa. Lots of pundits are giving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie high marks for the two-hour press conference during which he took responsibility for “bridge-gate.” For that matter, so do I. He did what he needed to do, which is to stand in front of reporters until they had no more questions to ask. The only problem with that strategy is that the media will do what they need to do: begin a relentless search for any sign that Christie was not telling the truth. Because he is currently the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination (I know, I find it hard to believe, too), the scrutiny will be relentless, and that’s why this cannot end well for Christie. Either the media or his political enemies will eventually find the lies they are looking for—causing serious trouble for Christie—or they won’t, but will continue the search and reference the scandal at every opportunity. Another potential Christie vulnerability: The two top aides Christie fired were trusted members of his team. Even if Christie did not know what they were doing, it is unlikely they would have done what they did if they did not think their boss would have approved—or that their boss expected them to do this kind of stuff without getting caught. That raises the meta-question: Was Christie’s two-hour mea culpa an example of true repentance and confession, or the behavior of a man who got caught?