In Jordan, reports are mixed as to just how good relations are between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority. What's clearer is that the stronger divide is between native Jordanians and the many Palestinian refugees.
The two locals we spent the most time with, our tour guide and our bus driver, represent both differences.
Petra is Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction, and it’s in an area where many poor Bedouins live. So you’re never far from a vendor of some kind, though once you get into the park a ways their wares get a bit tamer. But neither Indiana Jones tote bags nor simple camel-bone beads can distract you from what you’re seeing in the ancient Nabatean city.
On Saturday I broke off from the tour group and went to Fuheis, a town of 20,000 outside Amman. Fuheis is an anomaly in Jordan: it’s almost entirely Christian, majority Orthodox with many Catholics and a smattering of evangelicals. My companions for the afternoon were from the smattering, a pair of Baptist converts.
Tonight I leave for a 10-day press tour of Jordan, sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board. I'm not yet sure how easy/affordable the internet access will be, but I do plan to do at least a little bit of blogging from/about the trip. I've also scheduled some other posts to go up while I'm gone.
So you've probably already heard that Mother Jones has video of Governor Romney saying, among other things, this:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. . . . These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. . . . My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
As is often the case, Wonkblog has heaps of great commentary.
David Streitfeld's Times writeup on Amazon's latest customer-service push is generally informative, but he buries the lede. Here's his explanation as to why the retailer is putting up new warehouses all over the country:
This multibillion-dollar building frenzy comes as Amazon is about to lose perhaps its biggest competitive edge — that the vast majority of its customers do not pay sales tax. After negotiations with lawmakers, the company is beginning to collect taxes in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and other states. But Amazon hopes that the warehouses will allow it to provide better service, giving it the ability to up-end the retailing industry in an entirely new way.
So they needed a new way to have an edge, and they happened to go with more warehouses?
Another election year, another crop of posts about why people shouldn't vote. Among churchy bloggers, these often take the form of arguments about suspicion toward state power, questions about where our real citizenship lies, etc.
"The more we read," writes James Fallows, "the more we see reminders that experiences or perceptions we thought were distinctive to us are in fact widespread, even banal." And here I thought I was the only one who ever noticed that!
Fallows has in mind his admiration of the Book of Common Prayer.
I don't get that excited about the perennial calls for civility in politics. Treating others with respect is important, and I certainly have no problem with political discourse that's even friendly and good-humored. But it's not clear that the latter serves any purpose beyond itself—that it builds understanding or encourages useful moderation or enables compromise. Chatting may be generally preferable to yelling, but it's not really a solution to division and gridlock.
I do, however, appreciate timely reminders that our neighbors include those we disagree with.
James Bennet's post from earlier this week made an important and timely point. First he observes that a lot of political reporting has taken a turn from the destructive banality of he-said-she-said false equivalency stuff and toward playing an explicit fact-checking role. (I'm among those who welcome this enthusiastically.)
Then he poses this somewhat chilling question: "What if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?"
Bennet was talking about the Romney campaign's ads misrepresenting the Obama administration's policy on welfare-to-work. But his post seems all the more relevant today, in the wake of Congressman Ryan's speech at the RNC last night.