everything is never quite enough (mikeijames) wrote,
everything is never quite enough

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the three wise men in utah, new jersey, and new mexico.

my life has changed in the span of a week and the churning of emotions has finally brought me back to my journal. i could say that it happened on the quiet walk this morning with my dog amidst the city fog and the lazy traffic lights slowly blinking red then green then staying there staring at us. or i could say it happened in that moment yesterday at the veterinarian's office where i memory fell on me like a sandbag tossed up against the prospect of a flood. in line there stood an old high school friend. someone who, in the passing of time, had not grown taller in a way that i could tell, nor more muscular in a way that i could tell, nor more handsome in a way that i could tell, but infinitely more attractive because i had become less of all those things over that self same passing: i felt that look that i so often dispense where one wonders just what has taken place and over what time to ravage that once pure expression and that unblemished line with age and disrepair and the unkempt. and in that moment i remembered that this random soul from high school with classic mid-western good looks of near milk-white skin, dark brown hair, corn-fed comportment and that i had said in a moment of infinite confusion and lust, "because i love you." i don't remember why now i said it. it had come in an argument in ap chemistry and this corn-fed beauty in the heat of youth had done something or said something and i arguing had said it.

well, it's probably the last time i had uttered that phrase to anyone without the influence of alcohol or without getting cornered into a banquette in maso in san francisco to discuss what could stand as the end of our friendship. but, after that, i received a call last weekend from my exsomeone. yes, the exsomeone. one might count this entire journal as an epic novel about the exsomeone, but while on the friend with my old coworker in miami, i get a text message that says, "i need to talk to you about travel; i'm downtown." now, while out of the blue, it wasn't completely out of the blue as we had sent text messages back and fourth shortly after new years', but, with this, of course, i had to extend an invitation over: what else can someone who lives in a trendy apartment downtown do when someone says, "hey, i'm downtown," but say, (1) let's meet for a drink or (2) stop by. so after trying to say, "i can meet you for a coffee," my exsomeone comes over and nothing has changed. the attraction soaked through the room. and our repartee peppered the conversation. and because she likes everyone, my dog even contributed to our reunion of sorts. for two hours, we talked about boston and my exsomeone's aspirations to teach abroad and traveling to a conference in boston to that end, but as my exsomeone left, and i had to stand up, my physicality gave way to the feelings i had kept inside and we, well, reunited.

this comes at a odd moment for me as i still have the unhinged notion that things between my new someone and i have not ended resolutely and completely. and, it must be said, for all of the girls and gays who raved about the realistic nature of "sex and the city" and how it spoke to real life but panned it once it got to the second film, i have to re-assert just what a radical prospect that show represents. as i stand a little more than a year from my thirty fifth birthday, the number of my friends in my age category who are not married, have never been married, and have no prospects of marriage number below five. and as i cherish my friendships with my married friends, i can see the change in them. it became apparent in san francisco. while i brought my new someone to fill out the numbers -- i felt like edith inviting sir anthony strallan on downton abbey -- some of the happenings went to emphasize just how different we have become in our lives. i share in the blame, of course (my phrase of this post), but the statement that stands out from that moment in the banquette in the hotel bar as i cried came when they both agreed, "why would you be uncomfortable saying anything in front of our husbands?" because i don't know them. this from my one friend who once argued that spouses change the timber and chemistry of a trip and from another friend who once argued that ANYONE changed the dynamic and fun of a threesome getaway. in that moment, i felt like carrie in season six confronting miranda saying, "you want me alone!" like, let's change everything about the way we interact but expect me to act the exact same as if nothing has changed. but, i do take some responsibility: as a master communicator, i did not communicate my feelings. also, and it's a feeling i still have and have had, that i'm somehow not an equal player in our threesome. as we have lurched into adulthood that my input -- flawed as it may be -- does not carry the same weight because of my life situation or because of some supposed idea about my circumstance. it probably started in mexico city. i wanted to fly together full-stop. but we got booked separately (back when i didn't even book my own trips!) and when we got disconnected at the airport, i got yelled at. the exact thing i thought would happen. it came back up this year as we had a stand off about vegas: i refuse to spend money on something i don't want to do. i'm too old and i'm not that rich. we become rigid that way as we age. and it came to a head in san francisco when my good friend rob -- so good that it's been nearly a year since we've even had a telephone conversation because, you know, the internet -- said that he has no interest in traveling with me anymore if this is how it's going to be: how was it? on new year's eve, the day i said that nothing can happen, on the phone, in person, over and over, they decided to have a big tourist all day out thing. fine. it's their life. so when my new someone decided to go back and i felt that i should, too, given the episode last year, i get side eye. the next day. after six hours of drinking on new years eve, i get a message early in the morning to come have breakfast. are you kidding me? on new year's day?? and when i get up, they say they're in the castro. so my new someone and i head to the golden gate bridge because we didn't see it the day before. and, much like barcelona, we had one of those days out that binds my new someone so deeply to me that i have issues for years. it's that type of perfect day. and as we're on the bus on the way back, i get bitchiness from my friend rob about not wanting to hang out with them as if i'm the one who got up early on new year's day like that's our habit on these trips. but then, my friend alex chimed in saying he had thought the same. and, as per usual, when rob says something, i write it off. when alex says something, it cuts to the core. so i cried. and through my muttering i talked about my fears and the seizures and all that and i think it blew over, but i can't help but wonder if we'd continue on sex and the city style or end "dinner with friends" style.

but, yes, san francisco: a city with such a strong aesthetic -- hoodies, black knit, black skinnies, boots, edgy hair, ink -- that it's influenced my personal wardrobe. further, a city, like boston, so steeped in history yet so actually compact that it defies the monumental images one might have in their mind about this veritable mecca for so many. i mean, one second you're in presidio (with the golden gate), then, boom, chinatown, etc: and it's almost incomprehensible that people even need mass transit. an issues that's coming of age here at home. most in my little parochial village would shrug off mass transit as a want not need because we don't drive far when we drive LEAGUES compared to someone in san francisco! i mean, you could actually, not bull-shittingly, but actually everywhere. like manhattan or boston or toronto. so, the first night, we convened for thai -- and my new someone stayed behind for sleep -- and the next day we shopped all day and then did dinner in the castro at a little french boite called "bisou" and i had their signature drink and that launched me into a night that could only happen in san francisco with a drag show at midnight sun in the shadow of the castro theatre and a live performance -- with actual singing -- by honey mahogany on her birthday and then a night of dancing at badlands -- ironic since just a year and a half prior we ventured to the badlands of south dakota, literally -- and after that, we had our sight seeing day -- where we all saw fisherman's wharf and they saw the golden gate-- and then we went to our party on new year's eve. supperclub not only proved the perfect choice for san francisco, but for our threesome as it combined the ultra supperclub experience in toronto (2007) with the zumanity experience in vegas (2004) and fused it the burlesque vibe of cathouse in vegas (2009). also, it's eccentricity epitomized the city. we got there at seven. yes, seven in the evening and got treated to a fantastic five course meal with drag queen performances and aerialists and as the night progressed, the party finally got into full swing and i finally started drinking around eleven. they did a great job channeling studio 54 minus the debauchery. well, mostly. most of my friends left the party early and my new someone lingered with me and some other stragglers as the party approached last call. while i tried to get my new someone to hit up beatbox for after hours (apparently, the entire deal with san francisco night life), we wound up back at the hotel cruising on grindr and eating mcdonalds until nearly six in the morning. after the new year's day meltdown, we went to angel island on the second for a mountain top picnic and plenty of revelry since we all became delirious after the most arduous hike of my life. after that, we did dinner at trace in the w and then drinks at the hotel.

since i've gotten back, i haven't seen my new someone and we barely send text messages. in other news, i finally got promoted to a position which brings me not only to the income (which i had achieved maybe two years ago) but the pestige i had when i left the times. i need to get into grad school quickly because if i lose this job, who knows HOW LONG it'll take to get back. it's been almost five years. outside of that, i'm trying to plan our next new year's eve trip and i'm obsessed with morocco but alex doesn't like the flight plan on the way back. before then, i have two birthday trips (if not, three) to worry about. also, marriage equality has marched forward and as i ponder the idea of wise men -- speaking of the judges in this case -- it's curious how some focus on this issue when these states have much bigger concerns like school shootings in new mexico (where they'll defend the gun owners to the death), or obvious government corruption (where they'll defend the governor to the death), or the fact that RELIGIOUS people are pushing polygamy (which, it must be said, does have lots of old testament precedent).


Matthew 2:1-23
King James Version (KJV)
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Micah 5:2
2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Hosea 11:1
1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
We three kings of Orient aren't
An ancient mosaic in Ravenna showing the three wise men
Star turn: an ancient mosaic in Ravenna showing the three wise men
Christopher Howse
12:02AM GMT 21 Dec 2007
The Archbishop of Canterbury has questioned the story of the three wise men but, argues Christopher Howse, this does not change the message of Christmas
Transcript: Archbishop's interview with Simon Mayo
Damian Thompson: Another of Rowan Williams' own goals
What's this? Has the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said that the Three Kings didn't exist? Well, not quite.
"St Matthew's Gospel," he remarked in a radio discussion, "says they're astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire. That's all we're really told."
But think how deeply these three men have entered our imagination as part of the Christmas story. "A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey, in.
The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solstitio brumali, the very dead of winter."
Those words, in a tremendous sermon by Lancelot Andrewes that King James I heard on Christmas Day 1622, were brilliantly stolen by TS Eliot and incorporated into his poem The Journey of the Magi.
And we can see it all: the camels' breath steaming in the night air as the kings, in their gorgeous robes of silk and cloth-of-gold and clutching their precious gifts, kneel to adore the baby in the manger.
Yet, that is not entirely what the Gospel says. The wise men, as Dr Williams points out, figure only in the Gospel according to St Matthew. That's no surprise, since Mark and John do not give accounts of the infancy of Jesus.
St Matthew tells of them in just 12 verses, beginning: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.'"
It doesn't say they were kings, or that there were three of them. We suppose they were three because they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.
From the earliest times these gifts were accorded mystic significance: gold for kingship, incense for worship, and myrrh for anointing, just as Christ was anointed with precious spices for his tomb.
Of course, our imagination is filled by the images that artists have provided. There's a lovely ancient mosaic in Ravenna, 1,500 years old, showing the kings, sorry, I mean, wise men, in oriental garb of trousers and Phrygian caps, carrying their gifts past palm trees towards the star that they followed.
Their names are picked out in bright tesserae above them: Balthassar, Melchior, Gaspar. Those names are not in the Bible either.
In a funny way, these three wise men, the Magi, are older than Christmas. They come at Epiphany, which we celebrate (or ignore) on January 6. That's what Twelfth Night is all about. This day was in the earliest Christian times the great feast of the coming of Jesus.
At the Epiphany three events were marked: the birth of Jesus (called in prophecy Emmanuel, meaning "God with us"); the manifestation of this saviour to the Gentiles (us), represented by the Magi; and the baptism of Jesus, as an adult, when a voice from heaven was heard saying "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." It's with this baptism that St Mark chose to begin his Gospel.
Christmas, as the actual birthday of Jesus, only began to be celebrated as a separate feast on December 25 three centuries or so later by Latin-speaking Christians in north Africa. It was a different world in north Africa then.
There was no Arabic, nor were there mosques (Mohammed was not born for another couple of centuries), and small cities were run by men in togas, writing rather good Latin and debating heatedly just how much God the Father was the same as God the Son. No turkey on Christmas Day, but no snow either.
Yet old Bishop Andrewes spoke of the wise men coming in solstitio brumali, which he expected King James (who prided himself on his learning) to recognise as the winter solstice, when the days are shortest.
A lot of nonsense is talked today about Christmas "really" being the Roman festival of misrule, Saturnalia, or the feast of Natalis Soli Invicti, the birth of the invincible sun. But people then were quite capable of distinguishing one from another.
Christians cheerfully adopted artistic representations of Jesus as Apollo, for example, because he was a bit like the (fictional) sun-god.
The Christians had a prophecy to prove the point, taken from the book of Malachi in the Bible: "Unto you that fear my name," said the Lord, "shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings."
This prophecy, by the way, explains the puzzling line in the carol Hark the Herald Angels by Charles Wesley, where it speaks of Jesus "risen with healing in his wings". The wings are metaphorical, but they're biblically based too.
Equally so, then, is the metaphor of Jesus as the Sun. If customs had developed slightly differently, we might be celebrating Christmas at the summer solstice in June, when the sun is brightest.
Of course, midsummer is precisely the time that Australians do open their Christmas presents. No one had planned for them in the fourth century, because, although educated people knew that the earth was spherical, they thought no one lived in the antipodes, because the burning latitudes at the equator would be too hot to get past.
I mention these details as an indication that people hundreds of years ago had thought about such questions quite as much as we do today, sometimes more. It is just that they assembled their thoughts in a different pattern from us, and we can easily mistake their drift.
So, the first time someone tells you that the ox and the ass are not mentioned in the biblical account of Jesus's nativity, it can come as a shock. One checks the Gospels carefully, and indeed no ox nor ass appears.
But the medieval painters did not just invent them. They were familiar with the verse in Isaiah: "The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib." The painters wanted to show the belief of Christians that Jesus Christ, even as a baby in the crib, was the owner, master and indeed creator of men and beasts.
Whether a wandering magus 20 centuries ago was called Gaspar or not matters to no one much but him. It matters a very great deal whether a child born one summer or winter day in those years was really the prophesied Emmanuel. Dr Williams declares that he was, and that this is the good news of Christmas.
Armani Privé, for the Stoned Heiress Partying in Morocco in You
Armani Privé, for the Stoned Heiress Partying in Morocco in You

You're filthy rich, you're smoking lots of hash and you're throwing epic parties in a palace outside the medina. What do you wear? All of this. Purple haze all in your brain.


Armani Privé Collection
January 21, 2014
Armani Privé Couture Spring 2014

Anyone who saw Cate Blanchett looking glorious at the Golden Globes knows that Giorgio Armani’s best eveningwear is masterful — refined, interesting and, most importantly, celebratory of a woman’s beauty. With the Armani Privé collection the designer showed on Tuesday night, that mastery was in full force.
Free Preview

Armani showed his spring haute couture as part of the Paris installment of his One Night Only celebrations, and it made a compelling anchor. Called Nomade, it encompassed strains of the exotica he loves. "This is a woman who moves around the world and picks ideas from the beautiful things she sees, what moves her emotionally: the color of a skirt, jewelry that can be ethnic or not," Armani said during a preview. He described the collection as a "mélange of things — not typically Indian or African or European. She moves with an Armani spirit in her head."

Of course, that Armani spirit has men’s wear roots, which have impacted the designer’s women’s aesthetic from the start. Here, he flaunted the connection by day, transforming necktie foulards and stripes into statement daywear, typically small jackets over voluminous skirts and pants. The prevailing sober-toned shine and numerous arabesque embellishments suggested nonspecific Eastern influences. Though attractive, some of these looks projected an hauteur that felt out of step in the midst of this otherwise let’s-get-real season.

Not so with the magnificent eveningwear. Armani delivered options of look and mood — the elegance of a tailored jacket over pants; the danger of a glittering mesh shawl over transparent blouse and plissé skirt. But it was his gowns that captivated most. Obviously, Armani was thinking Oscars, and why not? He turned that too-often mundane classic, the strapless ball gown, memorable many times over, layering crystal-embroidered crinolines and laces over rich silks — jacquard, gazar, organza — often in mesmerizing shades of deep blue. Always he varied the line and details to make each dress unique — just as couture should be.

© 2014 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.


A cold coming by Tony Harrison
The Guardian ran this specially commissioned poem by Tony Harrison in 1991
The Guardian, Thursday 13 February 2003

I saw the charred Iraqi lean towards me from bomb-blasted screen,
his windscreen wiper like a pen ready to write down thoughts for men,

his windscreen wiper like a quill he's reaching for to make his will.
I saw the charred Iraqi lean like someone made of Plasticine

as though he'd stopped to ask the way and this is what I heard him say:
"Don't be afraid I've picked on you for this exclusive interview.

Isn't it your sort of poet's task to find words for this frightening mask?
If that gadget that you've got records words from such scorched vocal cords,

press RECORD before some dog devours me mid-monologue."
So I held the shaking microphone closer to the crumbling bone:

"I read the news of three wise men who left their sperm in nitrogen,
three foes of ours, three wise Marines with sample flasks and magazines,

three wise soldiers from Seattle who banked their sperm before the battle.
Did No 1 say: God be thanked I've got my precious semen banked.

And No 2: O praise the Lord my last best shot is safely stored.
And No 3: Praise be to God I left my wife my frozen wad?

So if their fate was to be gassed at least they thought their name would last,
and though cold corpses in Kuwait they could by proxy procreate.

Excuse a skull half roast, half bone for using such a scornful tone.
It may seem out of all proportion but I wish I'd taken their precaution.

They seemed the masters of their fate with wisely jarred ejaculate.
Was it a propaganda coup to make us think they'd cracked death too,

disinformation to defeat us with no post-mortem millilitres?
Symbolic billions in reserve made me, for one, lose heart and nerve.

On Saddam's pay we can't afford to go and get our semen stored.
Sad to say that such high tech's uncommon here. We're stuck with sex.

If you can conjure up and stretch your imagination (and not retch)
the image of me beside my wife closely clasped creating life . . ."

(I let the unfleshed skull unfold a story I'd been already told,
and idly tried to calculate the content of ejaculate:

the sperm in one ejaculation equals the whole Iraqi nation
times, roughly, let's say, 12.5 though .5's not now alive.

Let's say the sperms were an amount so many times the body count,
2,500 times at least (but let's wait till the toll's released!).

Whichever way Death seems outflanked by one tube of cold bloblings banked.
Poor bloblings, maybe you've been blessed with, of all fates possible, the best

according to Sophocles ie "the best of fates is not to be"
a philosophy that's maybe bleak for any but an ancient Greek

but difficult these days to escape when spoken to by such a shape.
When you see men brought to such states who wouldn't want that "best of fates"

or in the world of Cruise and Scud not go kryonic if he could,
spared the normal human doom of having made it through the womb?)

He heard my thoughts and stopped the spool: "I never thought life futile, fool!
Though all Hell began to drop I never wanted life to stop.

I was filled with such a yearning to stay in life as I was burning,
such a longing to be beside my wife in bed before I died,

and, most, to have engendered there a child untouched by war's despair.
So press RECORD! I want to reach the warring nations with my speech.

Don't look away! I know it's hard to keep regarding one so charred,
so disfigured by unfriendly fire and think it once burned with desire.

Though fire has flayed off half my features they once were like my fellow creatures',
till some screen-gazing crop-haired boy from Iowa or Illinois,

equipped by ingenious technophile put paid to my paternal smile
and made the face you see today an armature half-patched with clay,

an icon framed, a looking glass for devotees of 'kicking ass',
a mirror that returns the gaze of victors on their victory days

and in the end stares out the watcher who ducks behind his headline: GOTCHA!
or behind the flag-bedecked page 1 of the true to bold-type-setting SUN!

I doubt victorious Greeks let Hector join their feast as spoiling spectre,
and who'd want to sour the children's joy in Iowa or Illinois

Or ageing mothers overjoyed to find their babies weren't destroyed?
But cabs beflagged with SUN front pages don't help peace in future ages.

Stars and Stripes in sticky paws may sow the seeds for future wars.
Each Union Jack the kids now wave may lead them later to the grave.

But praise the Lord and raise the banner (excuse a skull's sarcastic manner!)
Desert Rat and Desert Stormer without the scars and (maybe) trauma,

the semen-bankers are all back to sire their children in their sack.
With seed sown straight from the sower dump second-hand spermatozoa!

Lie that you saw me and I smiled to see the soldier hug his child.
Lie and pretend that I excuse my bombing by B52s,

pretend I pardon and forgive that they still do and I don't live,
pretend they have the burnt man's blessing and then, maybe, I'm spared confessing

that only fire burnt out the shame of things I'd done in Saddam's name,
the deaths, the torture and the plunder the black clouds all of us are under.

Say that I'm smiling and excuse the Scuds we launched against the Jews.
Pretend I've got the imagination to see the world beyond one nation.

That's your job, poet, to pretend I want my foe to be my friend.
It's easier to find such words for this dumb mask like baked dogturds.

So lie and say the charred man smiled to see the soldier hug his child.
This gaping rictus once made glad a few old hearts back in Baghdad,

hearts growing older by the minute as each truck comes without me in it.
I've met you though, and had my say which you've got taped. Now go away."

I gazed at him and he gazed back staring right through me to Iraq.
Facing the way the charred man faced I saw the frozen phial of waste,

a test-tube frozen in the dark, crib and Kaaba, sacred Ark,
a pilgrimage of Cross and Crescent the chilled suspension of the Present.

Rainbows seven shades of black curved from Kuwait back to Iraq,
and instead of gold the frozen crock's crammed with Mankind on the rocks,

the congealed genie who won't thaw until the World renounces War,
cold spunk meticulously jarred never to be charrer or the charred,

a bottled Bethlehem of this come- curdling Cruise/Scud-cursed millennium.
I went. I pressed REWIND and PLAY and I heard the charred man say:
New Jersey’s highest court unanimously ruled Friday that same-sex marriage may commence in that state on Monday. In doing so, the court refused Governor Chris Christie’s request for a stay that would put on hold, pending appeal, an order issued by a lower court on September 27th that had declared the state’s marriage laws unconstitutional. New Jersey thus becomes the first state to usher in gay marriage since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of state-sanctioned marriages, in United States v. Windsor. What’s more, the New Jersey judges relied on the DOMA ruling. Windsor now seems to have consequences not directly intended by the Supreme Court but clearly anticipated. This is what supporters of same-sex marriage hoped Windsor might achieve.
Evan Wolfson, the president of the group Freedom to Marry and one of the pioneering advocates for marriage equality, told me in an e-mail shortly after the ruling, “The work is not done but the handwriting is on the wall—and it says, ‘Freedom to Marry in New Jersey.’” He added, referring to ongoing efforts by advocates in New Jersey to get the votes in the state legislature to override Christie’s veto of a marriage-equality bill that passed earlier, “While couples begin marrying next week, the legislature should act now to get on the right side of history by finishing what they started when they passed the freedom to marry bill last year.”
The ruling Friday, in a case brought by the gay-rights group Lambda Legal on behalf of six couples, had the effect of making New Jersey the fourteenth state to allow same-sex marriage, and the third-largest by population, after California and New York. It is highly unusual for an appellate court not to stay a lower court order of this nature while it is being reviewed. It is thus a broad and clear indication that the judges viewed the lower court’s ruling as legally proper and Christie’s position as entirely untenable. While it is technically conceivable that the New Jersey Supreme Court could reverse itself later when it hears the full appeal, should the state continue to pursue it, such a course is unlikely in the extreme.
“The Supreme Court has made its determination,” a spokesperson for Christie said after the ruling, adding that the Governor would abide by and implement it. That suggests that he may be ready to abandon his now seemingly futile appeal. Christie has repeatedly said that he prefers a voter referendum to decide the marriage-equality issue, rather than a state law or court ruling. But polling in New Jersey suggests that a majority of its citizens support marriage equality, which may have been a factor in the court’s decision.
The case had turned on New Jersey’s civil unions, the marriage-lite alternative offered to same-sex couples. Advocates argued that because, thanks to Windsor, full federal recognition, with all the attendant benefits, was now available to couples who were actually married, the civil-union system was a form of discrimination—separate, and not equal. Thus, even though the U.S. Supreme Court was careful not to rule on the issue of whether a state had to grant marriage rights to gays, federal recognition gave advocates a powerful example of the unfairness of doing otherwise.
Even though the gay-marriage movement has had the momentum of history behind it lately, the ruling was highly unexpected. It sends a signal that following last summer’s landmark cases, it may not be as difficult as people have usually assumed to successfully argue that state courts should rule boldly and broadly in favor of marriage rights. The New Jersey courts have struggled with this area in the past, issuing several decisions that grappled with the question of whether or not the state’s civil unions, if not offering the same rights as marriages, were constitutionally satisfactory. But this ruling was simple and clear. “We conclude the State has not made the necessary showing to prevail,” the judges wrote. “And that the public interest does not favor a stay.” A certain number of New Jerseyites will have the weekend to plan a wedding.
Richard Socarides is an attorney, political strategist, writer, and longtime gay-rights advocate. He served as a White House Special Assistant and Senior Adviser during the Clinton Administration. Follow him on Twitter @Socarides.
Photograph by Carlo Allegri/Reuters.
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Poll: Majority of NJ Voters Believe Christie Knew About Bridgegate Scheme
by Tommy Christopher | 9:10 am, January 13th, 2014
In the state where Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) won reelection by a landslide and enjoyed a 65% approval rating just last month, a majority of likely voters now believe that the Governor knew about a political retribution scheme involving lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.
That poll, conducted by Rasmussen, asked 800 likely voters in New Jersey “How likely is it that Governor Christie was aware at the time that traffic lanes onto the George Washington Bridge were being closed as retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to support Christie’s reelection?” A total of 54% responded that it was at least “somewhat likely,” with 30% responding “very likely,” while only 17% said it was “not at all likely” that Christie knew about the closures as they were being executed.
At a press conference on Thursday, Christie not only denied knowing about the closures (now known as “Bridgegate“) at the time, but even denied knowing anything was amiss until the revelation of texts and emails last Wednesday.
In spite of the results on that question, Christie still enjoys a 60% approval rating in the state, higher than President Obama’s 52% approval rating in the survey. Other findings from the poll include:
56% say Christie should resign “if it is proven that Christie approved of retaliation against an elected official who refused to support him.”
39% of New Jersey voters say the Bridgegate story will make them less likely to vote for Christie in the 2016 presidential election.
14% say the Bridgegate story will make them more likely to vote for Christie in 2016.
© 2014 Mediaite, LLC
New Mexico Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
December 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that gay marriage is legal in the Land of Enchantment.
The court said in an unanimous decision that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
"We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law," Justice Edward L. Chavez wrote in the decision.Many counties in New Mexico had already been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, setting up the state Supreme Court to decide whether it was legal or not. The state didn't explicitly ban or allow same-sex marriage, leaving the issue in limbo.
New Mexico becomes the 17th state to legalize gay marriage (map here) and the first in the American Southwest. Illinois and Hawaii did the same last month. Gay marriage is also legal in the District of Columbia.
Gay rights groups were quick to hail the ruling.
“The court is entirely correct that denying lesbian and gay couples the same rights as everyone else is fundamentally unjust,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Regardless of where you live, all people should have the ability to marry the person they love, and now the legislature must not do anything to turn back the clock in the Land of Enchantment.”
Opponents of gay marriage accused the court of judicial activism by effectively creating a new law without a constitutional basis.
“The New Mexico Supreme Court is the final word on the meaning of the New Mexico state constitution – a final word that is short of the will of the New Mexico people themselves," said Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council. "The court was acting as a legislature, not as a court.”
The justices noted that many states previously banned interracial marriages as well. They said that, in order for the state to ban gay marriage, it would have to show that it had a substantial interest in preserving traditional marriage.
Supporters of a ban argued that same-sex couples cannot procreate, but the court didn't buy that argument.
"Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying," the justices wrote.
Updated at 5:26 p.m.
2 Injured in Shooting at New Mexico School
A 12-year-old boy opened fire with a shotgun on Tuesday at the middle school he attends in Roswell, N.M., striking two among the dozens of students who were gathered inside a gym waiting for the first bell to ring, the police and witnesses said.
The victims, an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, were flown to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Tex., 170 miles east of Roswell. By Tuesday evening, he was listed in critical condition and she was in satisfactory condition, Eric Finley, a hospital spokesman, said.
The boy suspected in the shooting, whom the police did not identify, carried a shotgun inside a band-instrument bag, pulling it out once he entered the gym at Berrendo Middle School about 8:15 a.m. and stood before the first victim, identified by classmates as Nathaniel Tavarez, 11. The other victim, identified by a family friend as Kendal Sanders, 13, was struck in the chest, according to students who were there.
The boy stopped shooting once a social studies teacher told him to, and then he dropped the gun on the floor, police and school officials said. He was apprehended by a State Police lieutenant whom the school’s principal had flagged as she raced to close the main door to the campus during the shooting.
“I believe we have in custody right now the only individual who is responsible for this,” Pete N. Kassetas, the New Mexico State Police chief, said at a news conference in Roswell.
At the same news conference, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico said that a staff member at the school suffered minor injuries as a result of the shooting, but declined medical treatment because he wanted to stay and help.
The boy whom several students identified as the gunman was described as smart and bookish. On Facebook, he was pictured beside a deer he had killed during a hunting trip. (The picture has since been removed.) Laura Folts, 13, an eighth-grade student at Berrendo who worked as an aide to the boy’s second-period language arts teacher, said in an interview that he was “really smart, nice with everyone.”
Chief Kassetas said during the news conference that investigators had interviewed more than 100 students and staff members at the school but had yet to pin down a motive for the shooting.
Students and staff members at Berrendo — on the north end of Roswell, a city of about 48,000 in southeastern New Mexico — had been through several safety drills, and the school also hired its own security staff, said Tom Burris, superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District. According to the parents of current and former students, the school did not have a metal detector.
The school stayed on lockdown for several hours after the shooting, and the police also blocked access to portions of Highway 70, which runs near the campus. Students were taken to a nearby mall, where they were reunited with their families.
Mr. Burris said he had canceled Wednesday’s classes.
Susan Beachy contributed research.
A version of this article appears in print on January 15, 2014, on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: New Mexico: 2 Students Wounded In Shooting at Middle School. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe
Same-sex marriage
We’ll always have… Utah?
A strong year for gay-marriage advocates ends with a surprise
Jan 4th 2014 | LOS ANGELES | From the print edition
WHEN scholars write the history of America’s gay-marriage battles, they may declare 2013 the year the balance tipped. For in the past 12 months the president has compared the campaign to America’s other great civil-rights struggles, the Supreme Court has declared that the federal government has no business denying equal treatment to legally wedded gay couples, and the number of states in which people may marry whom they please has doubled, from nine to 18 (plus Washington, DC), covering 39% of the population.
Most of the 18 are the sorts of progressive places one might expect. The last is anything but; as home to the Mormon church, a firm foe of gay marriage, Utah is among America’s most conservative states. Yet on December 20th Robert Shelby, a federal judge, gave Utah’s gay couples an early Christmas present by scrapping the state’s same-sex marriage ban, approved by 66% of voters in 2004. Caught out, state officials are appealing against the ruling, but Judge Shelby and an appeals court declined to suspend his decision in the meantime. (Utah has asked the Supreme Court to do so, and was awaiting its decision as The Economist went to press.) Hundreds of couples flocked to the altar.
If the decision stands Utah will become the seventh state to have gay marriage delivered by judges (the day before Judge Shelby’s ruling, New Mexico’s Supreme Court legalised gay marriage in that state). Eight legislatures have passed pro-marriage laws, as have voters in three states. But, says Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, “all the low-hanging fruit is gone”. Most of the 32 outstanding bans are in state constitutions and cannot be overturned by legislatures. So bar a few states, mainly in the West, which may hold public votes in the coming years, advocates are likely to enjoy most of their advances, and surely some setbacks, in courtrooms. And that could mean more Utah-style surprises.
At least 35 lawsuits are making their way through federal courts in various states—including the curious case of two gay couples married in Massachusetts now seeking divorce in Texas, which does not allow gay marriage. Many plaintiffs have drawn succour from the Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down Section 3 of the Defence of Marriage Act, which had denied federal benefits to married gay couples. Anthony Kennedy’s decision said nothing about the legality of state bans, but its anti-discrimination argument strengthened the case for opposing them.
Ultimately one or other of the state cases will make it to the Supreme Court. When that will happen is anyone’s guess. In June the justices declined to hear a challenge to California’s gay-marriage ban on procedural grounds; they may prefer to let the issue unfold further in lower courts before taking on another case with national implications. Meanwhile, the court of public opinion appears to have reached its verdict; in July 54% of voters said gays should be granted the same marriage rights as heterosexuals, 12 percentage points higher than when Utah passed its ban.
Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2014. All rights reserved.
Judge strikes down part of Utah polygamy law in 'Sister Wives' case
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer, updated 11:03 AM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
*Ruling would keep in place the ban on bigamy in its "literal," fraudulent-intent sense
*The judge threw out the section of Utah's polygamy law that prohibits "cohabitation"
*U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups issued the ruling late Friday
*Suit was brought by Kody Brown and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn
(CNN) -- A federal judge in Utah has struck down part of that state's law banning polygamy, after a lawsuit was brought by the stars of the television reality series "Sister Wives."
The ruling late Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups threw out the law's section prohibiting "cohabitation," saying it violates constitutional guarantees of due process and religious freedom.
But the judge said he would keep in place the ban on bigamy "in the literal sense -- the fraudulent or otherwise impermissible possession of two purportedly valid marriage licenses for the purpose of entering into more than one purportedly legal marriage."
Brown family on 'Becoming Sister Wives'
The 91-page decision comes months after the Supreme Court struck down a separate federal law that defined marriage as between only one man and one woman, a major legal, political, and social victory for homosexual couples seeking recognition of their same-sex unions.
The current suit was brought two years ago by Kody Brown, a Utah resident and his four wives -- Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn -- who together have 17 children, and whose lives are chronicled on the TLC cable television program.
Polyamory: When three isn't a crowd
'Sister Wives' on challenges of polygamy
They claim their privacy rights were being violated by the decades-old law, passed around the time Utah became a state. They are members of a fundamentalist branch of the Mormon Church known as the Apostolic United Brethren Church.
Brown and his family said in a statement they were grateful for the ruling.
"Many people do not approve of plural families," he said, but "we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs."
Some religious groups criticized the ruling.
"This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life," said Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention. "Polygamy was outlawed in this country because it was demonstrated, again and again, to hurt women and children. Sadly, when marriage is elastic enough to mean anything, in due time it comes to mean nothing."
There was no initial reaction to the ruling from Utah officials, but they are expected to appeal.
The case is Brown v. Buhman (2:11-cv-652).

Ukraine Unrest: Haunting Pictures Emerge From Kiev As Clashes Rage On

The Journey Of The Magi by T.S. Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
© T S Eliot.
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